Notebook: Vikings know depth of their hole, but 'can't give up' at 0-4
Get the 1500 ESPN SportsWire delivered to your inbox daily, and keep up with all the news in Twin Cities Sports
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Visanthe Shiancoe was mostly joking when he said he doesn't want to be seen in public after the Minnesota Vikings' 0-4 start.
But the veteran tight end's message to reporters on Wednesday was precisely the one Vikings coach Leslie Frazier continues to preach. Albeit a bit more colorful.
"Nobody likes it," Shiancoe said. "But we've just got to dig ourselves out, play one game at a time. It sucks, but you've got to do it, right? There's no way possible -- we can't give up. What the (expletive), you know what I'm saying? (Expletive) that."
Frazier said coaches would "re-evaluate everything" after a 22-17 loss to the previously winless Kansas City Chiefs. But he quickly ruled out a quarterback change and on Wednesday said there wouldn't be change to any other starting positions either for Sunday's home game against Arizona.
Instead, the hope is the Vikings can eliminate some of the mistakes and missed opportunities that have contributed to four defeats by a combined 19 points.
"It'd be one thing if we sucked," veteran end Jared Allen said. "It'd be one thing if we didn't have players or we'd just be getting drummed for four weeks. But we haven't. We've been shooting ourselves in the foot, and it's just time to clean it up."
Time is running short. Since the playoffs expanded to 12 teams in 1990, less than 5 percent of the field (22 teams total) have rebounded from a start of 1-3 or worse to make the postseason.
Only one of those teams, San Diego in 1992, started 0-4. The Chargers were pounded in their fourth game 27-0 by the Houston Oilers, then returned home to beat Seattle 17-6 and begin a stretch of 11 wins in 12 games to close the season.
"You can't give up, man," Shiancoe said. "This is the NFL. Anything can happen. That would be tight if we go 12-4, huh? Wouldn't that be (expletive) awesome?"
Beating the slumping Cardinals, who have lost three straight to fall to 1-3, might be the Vikings' best chance to get a win for a while. They then have to travel to Chicago (2-2), host Green Bay (4-0), visit Carolina (1-3) and go on the road to face the Packers again after their bye week.
"Our players are really mentally into it, and they know the importance of this game as we enter the second quarter of this football season," Frazier said. "We need to come away with a win."
Last week, quarterback Donovan McNabb spent extra time after practice working with Shiancoe, who had season highs of six catches and 58 receiving yards at Kansas City.
On Wednesday, McNabb worked after practice with receivers Bernard Berrian and Devin Aromashodu, who figure to have plenty of vertical opportunities on Sunday against Arizona's single-high safety defensive scheme.
"I hope so," said Aromashodu, who played a season-high 16 snaps last week. "However many I get, I'll be ready and take advantage of any opportunities I get."
Aromashodu caught a 34-yard touchdown against the Chiefs, while Berrian had one catch for 20 yards -- only his second reception (for 37 yards) in 177 snaps this season. Aromashodu, who has played 37 snaps, has two receptions for 39 yards.
"We want to get the ball to Devin when we have an opportunity to do it," Frazier said. "He's shown in his short career in the NFL that he can be a big-play threat. But we still don't want to get away from trying to connect with Bernard and we're going to work on it (Wednesday) in practice and throughout this week and we expect to take a shot again in the game on Sunday to Bernard and hopefully, we can finally have a connection."
Middle linebacker E.J. Henderson's problematic left knee felt good enough after playing reduced snaps in Sunday's game that he practiced on a limited basis on Wednesday.
Coupled with younger brother Erin Henderson's strong showing against the Chiefs -- he had six tackles (five solo), drew a holding penalty and broke up a pass in coverage -- it seems likely the Vikings will continue to rest E.J. Henderson when their nickel defense is on the field, at least until they're confident the knee isn't an issue.
"I thought (Erin) did a real good job for us and should improve," Frazier said. "The health of E.J. determines how much more Erin will play in that role. But it was good to see (Erin) come out and really do a good job. It lets us know that, if things continue as they are with E.J., that we have a guy who can really handle that position."
D'Imperio gets a shot
More than 17 months after the Vikings selected him as a project in the seventh round of the NFL Draft, fullback Ryan D'Imperio appears to be on track to make his NFL debut on Sunday.
"He's always been a guy who had very good hands," Frazier said. "But his grasp of what we're trying to do offensively has really improved in this time away from the preseason. That's one of the things that really encouraged us. It seems like he's really on point with his assignments, and that was a little bit of a concern early on."
Frazier probably was understating the level of concern. D'Imperio looked flat-out lost at times in the preseason, contributing to the Vikings' decision to move forward without a fullback on the 53-man roster while continuing to develop D'Imperio on the practice squad.
But the former Rutgers linebacker apparently showed enough improvement over the past month in the areas coaches continue to stress with him -- faster work with his hands, reading his blocks, adjusting to different fronts -- to get his long-awaited promotion to the 53-man roster.
"Definitely come a long way with the coaching we have," D'Imperio said. "We have great coaching. I owe a lot of it to that. It's just small things, working on little things. I came a long way, but I still have to go a long way."
Frazier said the move had nothing to do with tight end Jimmy Kleinsasser's sore elbow, which didn't appear on Wednesday's injury report. But Frazier acknowledged Kleinsasser's role probably would be impacted if D'Imperio is active on game day, given that Kleinsasser has played the majority of "F" snaps this season.
"D'Imperio is a natural fullback, so it probably means that Jim will have fewer snaps" in the backfield, Frazier said. "... Just our being able to get to other packages in a different way."
• The Vikings replaced D'Imperio on the practice squad with rookie tight end Allen Reisner, who cleared waivers after being cut to make room for D'Imperio on the 53-man roster.
• Shiancoe said the hamstring that wiped out his preseason no longer is an issue. "It was a little tight the first couple games," Shiancoe said. "It wasn't ready yet. But I could still play and run. Now, like I don't feel it no more at all."
• The Cardinals signed speedy former Vikings WR Jaymar Johnson to their practice squad last month. "He looks good, made some plays on our (scout) team," coach Ken Whisenhunt said. "... He's been an interesting young player."
• Frazier praised the progress of rookie QB Christian Ponder, who continues to serve as the No. 2 option behind McNabb on game day but has yet to play a regular-season snap. "He's really coming along well," Frazier said. "He's working hard in practice, doing the same thing in meetings. We feel like he's progressing well and we're optimistic that, when his time comes, he'll be ready to go."