What worries me the most about the offense is the backfield. Michael Bennett is a speed guy, very limited, and I don't think he'll hold up physically for 16 weeks. I bet Ciatrick Fason, the durable rookie from Florida, starts before the end of the year.... Losing [center] Matt Birk [to hip surgery] is a crippling blow to the line. There's no way they'll be as good a running team as they were last year.... Bryant McKinnie was drafted to be a franchise left tackle, but I haven't seen it. He's a good enough drive-blocker, but he gets beat around the edge too much.... Nobody's talking about it, but the return of Jim Kleinsasser after knee surgery will be as big for this team as the drafting of wideout Troy Williamson. Mike Tice likes the power running game, and losing Kleinsasser last year was like losing a third tackle. That's how great a blocker he is.... Kenechi Udeze has to develop more moves as a pass rusher. He's too predictable and gets stuck on blocks.... I don't think Sam Cowart will hold up in the middle for 16 games.... If I were building a defense, my top pick just might be Kevin Williams. It's amazing how productive he is dealing with double teams.
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP with 2004 statistics
2004 RECORD: 8--8
NFL RANK (rush/pass/total): OFFENSE 18/2/4 DEFENSE 21/29/28
COACH: Mike Tice; fifth season with Minnesota (23--26 in NFL)