Friday, November 27, 2015

letroy guion

[Note:  Want to see a list of every player featured in our “Draft Target” segment?  Click here to visit the Offseason Tracker where there will be a list of all these players.  Check back often as there are plenty more to come!]

It is no secret that the Vikings could use some help at defensive tackle.  Kevin Williams seems to be slumping and, at age 32, one can’t help but wonder if it is all downhill from here.  Letroy Guion and Christian Ballard have yet to establish themselves as reliable starters, and Fred Evans is nothing more than a suitable stopgap.

The Vikings could likely get by for another season with this group, but the popular theory is that they will use the NFL Draft to try and get a jump start on upgrading.  Todd McShay of ESPN recently mocked North Carolina tackle Sylvester Williams to the Vikings, a suddenly trendy pick, so I figured now was as good of a time as any to profile Williams for you all.

At 6′ 3″ and 313 pounds, Williams was impressive at the NFL Scouting Combine, including a 5.03 forty time and 27 reps on the bench press, confirming what we already knew:  Williams is the perfect combination of speed and strength that teams look for in a defensive tackle.

Williams is a prospect that comes with a story, having personal troubles during his high school years, but managed to catch on with a small school before making himself known under the bright lights at North Carolina.  He is known as a raw and emotional player, for better and worse, that plays with a nastiness that sometimes spills over into the realm of undisciplined.

He is known for his swim move, which gets him into the backfield on a fairly regular basis, but it is also a worry that you seldom see him use any other moves to bet beyond his blocker.  He plays with an enormous amount of strength and a reach that casts a wide net for taking down running backs or making plays on the ball.  His strength and burst could allow him to play either tackle position for the Vikings, and maybe even defensive end on running downs, but he should probably be assigned learning the three-technique from day one as his primary responsibility.

Williams has been knocked for inconsistencies, especially against more elite blockers, and it is certainly a concern to see any player disappear for long stretches.  Both his work ethic and conditioning has been alluded to as a possible worry by a number of experts and draftniks, but I have yet to hear anything solid to suggest this is really concern.  Hopefully someone from the Vikings had the presence of mind to do some digging on this matter when former North Carolina defensive lineman Tydreke Powell spent some time with the Vikings in 2012.

What I really love about Williams, and I think is being overlooked, is the fact that he improved in 2012 despite the fact that star lineman Quinton Coples left for the NFL.  One would think that Coples leaving would have an adverse impact on Williams, but he nearly tripled his stats for tackles for a loss and sacks from 2011 to 2012.  Williams is still growing and improving as a football player, and the fact that he could become even better and more refined is going to be very intriguing to front offices around the league.

In a normal year there might be more buzz surrounding Williams, but this is a very deep class at defensive end, and there are certainly a handful of tackles the Vikings will have higher on their board than Williams.  Picking at #23, however, puts them in a position to consider the scenario in which Williams is the best defensive tackle available to them when they are on the clock.

I’m not certain he will even be one of their top 23 ranked players in this draft, but that doesn’t discount the idea that he would be an attractive option, especially given that they could conceivably allow him a season or two to learn and grow behind their current veterans at the position.  I think that the Vikings will have to trade back from #23, or Williams will have to fall to their second round pick, if McShay’s prediction is to come true but it certainly isn’t impossible to envision them making this selection at some point.


[NOTE:  Click the links to see our free agency rankings for quarterbacksrunning backs,fullbacks,tight endscentersguardsoffensive tackleswide receiverssafetiescornerbacks, and linebackers.  We’re almost done!]

The Vikings appear to be at somewhat of a crossroads when it comes to the defensive tackle position.  On the surface, they appear set to simply continue with the guys they have, but it could also be much more complicated than that.

Kevin Williams is set to make $7 million for each of his two remaining seasons under his current contract, but that salary no longer aligns with his declining production and he is likely going to be approached about taking a pay cut, which can sometimes end up in a player’s outright departure.

Prior to the 2012 season, Letroy Guion received a three year contract worth $9 million which suggested the Vikings had faith in his ability to be an effective starter next to Williams, but he did little to instill full confidence during the first year of his new contract.  Fred Evans did a nice job in spelling either starter and should be retained through the last year of his contract.

Still, from tackle to safety, it is common for observers to assume the Vikings would like to strengthen the middle of their defense.  Defensive tackle is a position that cannot afford to take a step backwards and the Vikings front office should be very interested in any opportunity to improve.  Free agency might offer some help:

Top Tier

Chicago’s Henry Melton is only 26 years old and played like an absolute monster in the final year of his rookie contract.  He was by far the Bears best defensive lineman in 2012 and they will not part with him easily.  This guy kind of reminds me of a young Kevin Williams with his ability to be disruptive in the passing game, but he isn’t going to be anyone’s savior against the run.  There are some worries out there that Melton’s stardom coming about during a contract year wasn’t a coincidence, but there are going to be teams willing to assume that he is every bit as good as he showed last season.

Percy Harvin did not practice Friday and will likely miss this weekend’s home game against the Detroit Lions. Harvin, who sprained his ankle last weekend against the Seattle Seahawks, has been an integral part of the Vikings offense and it remains to be seen how the Vikings will fare without him.

In an effort to minimize the effect Harvin’s absence will have, the Vikings have activated rookie wide receiver Jarius Wright. Wright, taken in the fourth round of last year’s draft, has yet to see the field during the regular season. The dynamic receiver from Arkansas is deemed to have a skill set similar to Harvin but it is unlikely he will come close to filling his role this Sunday.

Adrian Peterson Returns To Practice

After missing Thursday’s practice with a stomach virus, Adrian Peterson returned to practice Friday and is expected to play Sunday. Peterson will likely be relied on heavily as the Vikings means of offensive production.

Last week, the Vikings mysteriously abandoned running the ball in the second half of the game against the Seahawks while Peterson was averaging an astonishing 10+ yards per carry.

Peterson will have his hands full this weekend against a Detroit Lions front that has been playing better than since they last met in Week 4 at Ford Field where the Vikings managed to escape with a 20-13 victory. In that game, Peterson just barely broke the century mark with 102 yards on the ground.

Interesting note:

Other Vikings Injuries

Letroy Guion returned to practice Friday (turf toe) but is doubtful against the Lions. Fred Evans will start in his absence.

Mistral Raymond is likely to be active this weekend but it is unknown what his contribution will be.

Vikings tight end John Carlson is expected to start Sunday after missing a couple games with a concussion.

Vikings Probable: “FB Jerome Felton (shoulder), LT Matt Kalil (knee), CB Antoine Winfield (knee), TE John Carlson (concussion), P Chris Kluwe (knee), RB Adrian Peterson (ankle/illness), S Mistral Raymond (ankle), S Jamarca Sanford (knee) and WR Jerome Simpson (calf).”


Free agency took off like a rocket. We were all anxious for what the Vikings would do. After all, they had a good chunk of cap room available. There were also rumors floating around from the combine that the team was going to be very active. And, let’s face it; there weren’t any shortage of holes to fill.

But nothing happened on that first day. The Vikings were quiet… Eerily quiet. Fans were not. Almost immediately, people were calling for Spielman’s head. How could he not acquire Vincent Jackson. How could he not get Pierre Garcon? How could we just sit on so much money when there so many voids to fill in this team to make it a contender again?

Finally, the Vikings started making some moves. Now, that’s not to say fans pulled back and gave Spielman some breathing room. The acquisitions were questionable… Questionable players signed to deals for amounts that were somewhat puzzling to most fans. We were signing people who were injured (and hadn’t played in a year), fullbacks, and… point guards.

While the offseason is far from over, two weeks in, we now have a fair amount of information to look at and develop more comprehensive opinions on how the team has done. What I wanted to do here is recap what the Vikings have done so far this offseason while giving my personal opinion of each move and an overall grade. If you’re ready (it’s long!), continue reading by clicking the button below.

I always think it takes a big man to admit his mistakes.

On Sunday, Rick Spielman earned a point or two in my book by admitting that it was his mistake to sign defensive tackle Remi Ayodele following the NFL Lockout last offseason.

“That’s something where we made a mistake,” Spielman said, “and I’ll put that on me making a mistake, as far as making sure that the players that we sign fit the scheme that we’re trying to run.”

Ayodele was cut by the Vikings on March 21st, only hours after the NFL announced its plan to punish the New Orleans Saints and management involved in the “BountyGate” scandal.  Ayodele, of course, was a member of the Saints during the time under scrutiny, placed a very questionable hit on Brett Favre during the 2009 NFC Championship Game, and may face a suspension as a result.

Spielman, however, says that “BountyGate” had nothing to do with the decision to release him and instead was a result of him not fitting the scheme.

“It had nothing to do with the other circumstances,” Spielman said of Ayodele’s release.  “This was purely based on a decision that didn’t live up to the billing and how he would fit into the scheme like we thought he would. Then, when we were able to sign Letroy back and Fred Evans back, we felt those guys were a better fit in what we were trying to do defensively than what Remi was for us last year.”

It was reported last season that it was Spielman’s decision to bring in Ayodele while Head Coach Leslie Frazier preferred to see long-time Viking Pat Williams return.  Ayodele was ultimately signed to a three year deal worth up to $9 million.

Just prior to Ayodele’s release, the Vikings re-signed Letroy Guion and Fred Evans and hope to see them take command of the nose tackle position moving forward.

It is inevitable that an NFL General Manager is going to make mistakes.  It is a rarity to hear one actually admit to it.  The best thing Spielman can do, however, is to learn from it and make sure it doesn’t happen again.

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