CAMP BATTLES: The Run Stoppers

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.

Behind him, Floyd will have the luxury of both learning behind one of the game’s best and getting valuable snaps, as part of a rotation, at the same time.  As a prospect, Floyd is regarded as a player with extreme potential that is coming in equally as raw, so Minnesota seems to be a perfect fit.  While fans will be excited to see him in action, there is no reason to force him into too big of a role until it is a necessity or until he truly proves himself, both of which may not happen in his rookie season.  He will likely earn time as part of a rotation, as mentioned earlier, but it seems likely he will be behind Williams on the depth chart with a potential to be a permanent part of passing down packages.

A real battle to watch will be between Guion and Evans for the nose tackle snaps.  While they too are likely to be subject to a rotation, nobody should merely assume Guion retains the starting job he held last year.  Evans played fewer snaps than Guion last season, but Evans was the one who contributed more splash plays down the stretch.  The starting job next to Williams appears to be fully up for grabs.

Now, I assume each of the four guys mentioned above will make the roster.  With guys like Everson Griffen and Brian Robison capable of taking reps at the tackle position, it is possible that they are the only four that make the final cut.  Dawkins, McCloud, and Baker are all somewhat of an unknown at this point, but there could be room on the roster if one of them proves worthy of having a locker with their name on it throughout the preseason process.

Overall, there are a lot of question marks here, but there is also a lot of talent and potential.  The competition at the nose tackle spot, the battle for youngsters to prove themselves, and the transition from a long-time veteran to a first round rookie are all exciting storylines to follow over the next couple of months.  We will certainly be keeping a close eye on each one.

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Adam Warwas

Adam Warwas (Founder) has been writing about the Vikings for a total of eight years. Five of those years have been here at Vikings Territory where he continues to surround himself with enough talented individuals that people keep coming back. As proud as he is of what Vikings Territory has become, his real treasures are in his home... a beautiful wife and three amazing children (and a dog named Percy).

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  1. Cigars for everyone. My daughter had a 6lb 9oz baby boy. Little Dalton is cute at a button… just like his grandpa!

    I think Griffen is good enough to compete with Robison for the starting job at DE… but he is so good at playing situational rolls at DT that I think the coaching staff will give us more of the same from last season.

    The rotational “pass rush” front four of Robison, Griffen, Floyd, and Allen will be a monster for teams to deal with. I think Cutler will fake being injuried for the Vikings games.

    1. Cograds Carl a very special moment, cherish it always.

      I agree on the dline and I’m guessing Floyd will make more than a few splash plays of his own.

    2. Being a Grandpa is cool! Got two of them rascals, it’s more fun than being a parent.

  2. As a team the Vikings were “ok” last year against the run only giving up 105.8 yards a game (11th in NFL) and an average of 4.0 yards per carry (7th). A rotational roll for Kevin Williams might help keep him fresh. Guion, Evans Ballard, or Dawkins must step up this year and help get the Vikings back to a “top 5” run defense.

  3. Anybody think the Vikings will take a look at Joe Mays? As a former NDSU Bison I have wanted him to succeed in the NFL.

    1. Before they signed Bishop, absolutely, but probably not now unless we have an early season ending injury to one of our top four guys. We simply don’t have the roster spots for another mid-level type veteran. We have three young guys in Hodges, Mauti, and Cole that are better prospects long term for the team than anyone who is available right now in free agency. I think Joe Mays is a good player but don’t see him coming to the Vikes without a roster spot opening due to injury.

  4. Also, why are the Vikings waiting for the last minute to sign their first round draft picks? This is getting old every year.

    1. Maybe Wilf wants to leave the millions in bonus money he’ll be shelling out earning interest until the last possible moment. Maybe they don’t want those 3 young men to have millions in bonus money until right before they will be completely busy for the next 6 months or so. There are some good reasons to wait until the last minute. It’s a little frustrating as fans for it to drag on, but as long as they get them inked before the first practice I’m good with it. I don’t think the Vikes have demanded offset language the last couple years, so I’m guessing they will get done without any problems.

    2. Yep, every year. I think it’s just how they roll. I’ve heard that Rob Brzezinski is a genius at this stuff.

      1. PFT’s reporting that Floyd’s deal is done, so the others should be following pretty quickly. Atlanta wrapping up Trufant’s contract yesterday probably helped us out there, that was the Brandon Weeden slot and he had gotten a bit of a QB premium in regards to guaranteed money in the 4th year of the deal. Floyd’s camp may have been waiting to see what Trufant could get before agreeing to anything with the Vikes. I wouldn’t expect any issues with Rhodes or Patterson.

  5. Good for you, Grandpa Carl! Lots of advice here on The Territory if you ever need it. For now, just get a little Viking football in his hands ASAP.

  6. Congrats Carl! I look forward to the grandpa stuff someday.

    All three of our 1st rounders signed, and Percy Harvin–sounds like he tore his labia.

    I hated the trade at first, but ain’t it lookin’ great right about now?

  7. Congrats Carl! I concur with Coach with getting a Vikings football in his hands immediately. Maybe get him a AD Fathead and put it up on the ceiling so he can look at while laying in his crib.