Optimists would tell you that the Vikings are stacked at the defensive tackle position, so much so that some surprising names might be on their list of final cuts, and that it is very difficult to predict who will start next to Kevin Williams this season.
Skeptics, on the other hand, may have a bit of a different outlook on the situation. They may look at the positional depth chart and say the Vikings have a whole lot of question marks with no sure-fire answers. An aging veteran forced to take a pay cut in Williams. A first round selection that might look promising, but is still a mere rookie, in Sharrif Floyd. An underperforming nose tackle Letroy Guion. An unproven and inexperienced player in Christian Ballard. A late round rookie in Everett Dawkins. The quantity is undoubtedly there, but no we must wait to see if quality emerges from the pack.
One name that should not be dismissed as a possible starter on day one is veteran Fred Evans.
“The coaches keep telling me that, hey, we need to give Fred a shot to compete for the No. 1 job,” Leslie Frazier told 1500 ESPN on Sunday.
The reason that Evans is suddenly getting serious attention, after six seasons with the team, are a direct result of how much better he looked than Guion down the stretch last season despite playing fewer snaps. What really separates him was his ability to come up with a pair of big plays that included a crucial sack against Houston and a big-time third down stop against Green Bay.
“Based on (what Evans) did coming down the stretch — he played some lights-out football for us,” Frazier said. “He really stepped up. And we’ve been harping on that with him, his consistency, and he showed that late in the season. So, we’ll see. We’ll just see if he can continue to elevate his play, and if he does, he’ll be in line for more snaps with the first unit.”
Frazier says “more snaps” with the first team because that is the role Evans played when the Vikings opened up OTAs last week. That is a pretty good sign for a player that has never been much more than a rotational guy in his seven NFL seasons. The previously mentioned depth at the position means Evans, and the rest of the defensive tackles, is still sure to be a part of a rotation this season, but becoming a starter would be a huge step forward for the 29 year old Evans.
If he does become a starter, then the Vikings will be facing even more drama next offseason, as he joins the rest of the starting line as a 2014 free agent. Jared Allen, Kevin Williams, Brian Robison, Everson Griffen, Lawrence Jackson, and George Johnson are all entering contract years in 2013 along with Evans.