Friday, May 29, 2015
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kevin williams

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The Vikings offense has received the most attention following the week one loss in Detroit, but the defense certainly didn’t inspire much confidence with their performance, either.  Part of the problem was visible in the middle of the defense, with Detroit’s running game producing quite nicely, and it was noticeable that defensive tackle was out of action.

According to 1500 ESPN, the defensive line rotation may get a boost this week against Chicago, who has a talented duo of running backs themselves.  Williams was able to practice in a limited capacity on Wednesday and Leslie Frazier said he hoped to see him back in the lineup this Sunday.

Also limited in practice were CB Josh Robinson (quad), C John Sullivan (knee), and RT Phil Loadholt (knee).  The Bears are little healthier right now with CB Charles Tillman (knee) being their only player limited in Wednesday’s practice.

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Kevin Williams took a cheap, low block from Niners guard Joe Looney on Sunday evening and things looked really bad for him as he laid on the turf.  Then they looked a lot better as he left the field under his own power and reportedly told teammates he was fine.

On Monday, after an MRI, the news was somewhere in the middle.

Williams hyperextended and bruised his right knee during the game, or more accurately Joe Looney hyperextended his knee on a cheap shot, and his availability for the season opener is now in question.  The good news, however, is that the injury will not require surgery and Williams should not be out of action for long.

Still, following a minor knee surgery to Sharrif Floyd and Christian Ballard’s bizarre departure from the team, the team cannot afford to take many more hits to the middle of their defensive line.  This will certainly be a situation to monitor as the season opener in Detroit draws nearer.

By the way, the injury occurred on what was really a B.S. cheap shot from Niners guard Joe Looney.

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2013 Training Camp - Christian Ponder
(Photo by Chris Price.)

Vikings players reported to training camp this past Thursday and two days in we already have some catching up to do. Though the first two sessions were without pads, there are still some interesting notes from Friday and Saturday.

  • Let’s talk health first… Through the first two days of camp, the Vikings have emerged relatively unscathed. The biggest piece of injury related news was that nose tackle Letroy Guion was forced to leave the first day of camp with a right elbow injury. Guion, who is presently in competition for his spot with backup Fred Evans, had x-rays done that night to determine the severity of the injury. Luckily, the images came back negative and he should be participating again soon.
  • Now on to Christian Ponder as he has been the primary focus of media and fans the first two sessions. The word out of camp so far isn’t good for #7. Talk has been that Ponder has struggled early with accuracy and often checking down to his tight ends. Ponder threw an interception to Blanton in passing drills, an almost-interception on a pass to Greg Jennings which was dropped by Jamarca Sanford, etc… And apparently, struggles in the passing game continued into Day 2. It’s worth noting that the weather has been nasty at Mankato with some pretty strong gusts. Of his performance and the weather, Ponder told reporters, “The first day was tough with the wind especially… On certain throws, you try to [put] touch on the ball, and if you do that it’s gone. A couple hung in the air and the wind took them away and it looked like some bad plays. It’s going to happen.” Kevin Seifert of ESPN North notes that Ponder did have some nice passes if you’re a glass half full kind of guy.
  • Cordarrelle Patterson has already become a fan favorite at camp with a pretty nice sideline, one-handed grab.

The Vikings avoided taking a hit to their depth at defensive tackle this offseason by renegotiating the contract of veteran Kevin Williams.  Additionally, they bolstered the position for this season, and into the future, by spending one of their first round picks on Florida standout Sharrif Floyd.

The also spent a late pick on Florida State tackle Everett Dawkins in an effort to proactively ease the inevitable transition the front four will see very soon.  Dawkins may have an uphill battle to make the roster, but it is obvious the Vikings are preparing to move on from at least some of their current veterans, such as Williams.

While nose tackle Letroy Guion had a disappointing first year a starter, veteran Fred Evans showed up big on a number of key plays last season, and they should continue to compete for each other’s playing time.  Fourth year player Christian Ballard has been largely mediocre throughout his career so far, but even he has shown some flashes that provide some intrigue heading into 2013.

Second year player Chase Baker, along with undrafted rookie Anthony McCloud, round out the competition for spots on the bottom of the depth chart.

Age and injuries seem to be catching up with Williams, as he hasn’t played at an all-pro level for a few years now, but he can still get the job done and the hope is that being fully health will actually result in some improved play.  It can’t hurt that he is now in the final year of his contract with the Vikings and has publicly stated his intention to play beyond 2013.  He will almost certainly go into the season as a starter, albeit rotated out of the lineup more often than we are used to seeing, but his presence will likely prove to be quite valuable as the season wears on.

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.

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