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Roster Rundown: Defensive Line

Posted by Mike Wobschall on July 26, 2012 – 9:29 am

Vikings players report to 2012 Verizon Vikings Training Camp today and their first walk-thru and practice will be tomorrow, so it’s time for us to complete our Roster Rundown series. There are three position groups to go, and we’ll knock off the largest group right now – the defensive line.

Let’s split this up into DEs and DTs, without regard to who’s playing right DE compared to left DE and without regard to who’s playing the three-technique and who’s playing nose. Here we go…

Defensive Ends
For my money, the Vikings have the best DE in the NFL. Jared Allen comes off a 22.0-sack season a year ago, and no player has more sacks than Allen’s 105.0 since he entered the League in 2004. It’s not a stretch in the least to think Allen can have another sensational season in 2012. Yes, teams will be focusing on neutralizing him, but teams have been trying to neutralize him for years with no avail. As a bookend at DE, Brian Robison is the favorite to hold a starting position on the defense as he comes off a career-high 8.0-sack season in 2011.

Behind starters Allen and Robison, the Vikings have high hopes for Everson Griffen this season. Griffen has been a standout special teams player during his two-year career, and he’s gotten to the point now where the team will try to find more snaps for him on defense. Because of his versatility, those snaps could come at either DE or DT, and there’s also been talk of him getting into the mix at LB. Another reserve who could take a step forward this year is D’Aundre Reed. He was a 7th-round pick out of Arizona last season and didn’t play in a game, but coaches are excited about his athleticism and potential.

Other DEs on the roster who will fight to add depth to the group are: Jeff Charleston, Trevor Guyton, Anthony Jacobs, Eric Latimore, Ernest Owusu and Nick Reed. Charleston and Reed are veterans, Guyton was a 7th-round pick this year, and Jacobs (Minnesota), Latimore (Penn State) and Owusu (California) are undrafted college free agents.

Expect Allen and Robison to emerge from camp with starting spots, with Griffen pushing Robison for playing time and the two perhaps playing on a rotational basis. D’Aundre Reed has a big training camp ahead of him and could take a huge step forward. The rest of the group is a nice blend of veterans and youngsters, and they have a chance to provide some depth at what is a very strong position for the Vikings.

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Defensive Tackle
Teammates call him The Big Ticket. Kevin Williams is the leader of the Vikings DTs and has been changing games for the Purple since 2003. Williams played better than most people realize a year ago, and there’s no reason to expect a slowdown from Ticket in 2012.

This year, Williams is looking for a running mate to start next to him. The Vikings have been missing that aspect of their defense since Pat Williams’ decline and eventual departure from the team. Perhaps the team doesn’t need a Pat Williams clone – there is only one Pat Williams, after all – but the team does need another impact player at DT, and training camp is just the place to find that player.

Letroy Guion is a good, young option for the Vikings. Guion is only 25, but he’s entering his 5th season out of Florida State already and the Vikings would benefit greatly if he could step up and earn a starting position. Another returning veteran on the roster is Fred Evans, a six-year veteran who joined the Vikings in 2007.

Earlier this offseason, we identified Christian Ballard as one of eight Vikings poised for a breakout season in 2012. A rotational player in 2011 as a rookie, Ballard trained hard this offseason and is committed to earning more playing time for 2012. Perhaps Ballard’s biggest asset will be versatility because he can line up at defensive end or defensive tackle.

The Vikings have two undrafted college free agents at DT - Chase Baker (Boise State) and Tydreke Powell (North Carolina). Baker was a standout to me at this year’s Senior Bowl (Leslie Frazier and his staff had Baker on their North squad), and Powell will impress because of his size (6-3, 310 pounds).

Williams is obviously solidified as the starter at the three-technique, but a great opportunity exists for the rest of the DTs to earn a starting spot next to Williams. This will be a fun position battle to monitor during training camp. Don’t be surprised if this situation is ultimately resolved with a by-committee approach, but it also wouldn’t be surprising – and would be quite pleasant – if someone emerged from camp with a firm grasp on the job.


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Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 20 Comments »


20 Responses to “Roster Rundown: Defensive Line”

  1. By Parody on Jul 26, 2012 | Reply

    I was checking out the latest videos and came across this one entitled “Ponder Hits the Links Ready for 2012″ and my first thought was that Ponder decided that in order to give himself a better shot at being a champion he needs to start sleeping with some champions. So you can guess my disapointment level when it turned out to be a golfing video.

  2. By qb on Jul 26, 2012 | Reply

    dude, that is the single most dumb comment I’ve ever heard

  3. By purplefolife on Jul 26, 2012 | Reply

    do you guys think we should sign Charlie Peprah.

  4. By Titus Flavius Caesar Vespasianus Augustus on Jul 26, 2012 | Reply

    Last night Spencer commented on how many postings I was making– I was around 14 and shouting victory! I declared I had gone past the Time Out boundaries– and then yes, I ran into an electric fence and could not post anymore.

  5. By Parody on Jul 26, 2012 | Reply

    By qb on Jul 26, 2012 | Reply

    dude, that is the single most dumb comment I’ve ever heard

    Maybe you should get your ears checked.

  6. By rogerthevikefan on Jul 26, 2012 | Reply

    @purplefolife- No, the Packers had one of the worst secondary play in the league and Peprah has always been aweful. Yes even are cr@ppy safety play last year was better than what Peprah has ever done.

  7. By purplefolife on Jul 26, 2012 | Reply

    Thanks rogerthevikefan. I was just thinkin it might help competition.

  8. By Troutdaddy on Jul 26, 2012 | Reply

    Love how your posts reflect the blogs topic Parody… Really?

    D-line is going to be aggressive this year. I can see Allen and Robinson have really good seasons. I am not sure Allen is going to get 22 sacks again this year, but I I wouldn’t put it passed him to exceed that. he is quite fired up about this years opportunities. I also think reed and Ballard are going to make names for themselves and open some eyes. From what I have heard, our strength and speed have been a huge focus and we got some guys who are looking to cause soem havoc with many QB’s this season. I hope theyhave a field day…

  9. By Smith on Jul 26, 2012 | Reply

    How many publications are going to recycle “The Vikings 2012 season hinges on Ponders progress” story. I’ve seen about ten different publications run that story. Our Defense is why we lost the majority of our games last year.

    Our Offense scored an average of 21.2 points per game last season (21.9 when Ponder became the starter). Ranking them 19th in the league.

    You know who finished 18th with 21.5 points a game? The Cincinnati Bengals.
    Do you know what their record was? 9-7 and made the playoffs.

    Two teams with almost identical production on offense, one team finishes 3-13 and the other 9-7. How is that possible? Hmmmmmmmmmm, thats a mystery.

    The Bengals Defense gave up an average of 20.2 points per game.
    The Vikings? Drum roll please………………………………………………………………..
    The Vikings Defense gave up a total of 28.1 points per game(ranked 31st) to opponents last year. OUCH!!!!! And that is why we were 3-13.

    Ponder turned the ball over a few times and threw some pick sixes adding to that deficit slightly. He was a rookie QB and thats what they do, they make mistakes. They all do. He’s not unique in that regard.

    The Bengals Offense lead by Andy Dalton averaged 21.5 points per game.
    Dalton had a very good O-Line, a very good receiving corps, coaches who built the offensive scheme around his strengths, a very good Defense and all the reps in training camp.

    Ponder had none of those things. And yet the Vikings were still able to score 21.9 a game when he became the starter.

    Nothing against Dalton, I like him and think he’s good. But i’ll stick with Ponder, I think he has way more upside.

  10. By Bluebird7 on Jul 26, 2012 | Reply

    Smith

    Enjoyed your report, However, I do have one question for you. Was this all Ponder, or did Joe Webb figure in there somewhere? Just asking, Thanks.

  11. By Parody on Jul 26, 2012 | Reply

    Troutdaddy – Was there a reason you chose to only call me out for that? Look over the history of the blogs. Very few people remain on topic for any blog. That is extremely true for the regulars. Just be happy that I stayed on the topic of the Vikings instead of talking about my dad’s best friend’s son who knew a guy that was in the Colorado theatre last Friday.

  12. By Parody on Jul 26, 2012 | Reply

    But since all the blogger-moderators need me to only talk about the topic of the blog, might as well before they start beating me:

    “Let’s split this up into DEs and DTs, without regard to who’s playing right DE compared to left DE and without regard to who’s playing the three-technique and who’s playing nose…Williams is obviously solidified as the starter at the three-technique.”

    That’s right. We’re not going to give any regard to it, but we may mention that Williams will be playing the three technique. And it’s obvious who’s starting at RDE and LDE, so what’s the point in saying that you’re not going to give it any regard?

    There, see? I can stay on topic. Not much fun, is it?

  13. By sandiamond on Jul 26, 2012 | Reply

    purplefolife , he// yes or another potential S talent on waivers very soon

  14. By Smith on Jul 26, 2012 | Reply

    Bluebird7

    Yeah, I was thinking about Webb when I was writing it. He played half of the 2nd Detroit game, most of the 2nd Bears game and maybe about half of the victory over the Redskins. So 75% Ponder 25% Webb.

    I tell you one thing Ponder will have to do, and thats win the locker room away from Joe Webb. The entire team loves him, they really get fired up when he’s on the field.

    Lot of people are high on Webb. Gil Brandt thinks he has a huge upside and I’ve heard Luvie Smith talkin him up too.

  15. By PURPLE 12 on Jul 26, 2012 | Reply

    Ponder reminds me of Tommy Kramer in style an delivery ..I think Kramer was more accurate though. Webb reminnds me off a young Randal Cunnigham with a little bit more elusiveness ..point is Kramer gave way to Wilson and Ponder might give way to Webb depending on how they each develop in the next couple of seasons and how they are percieved by Viking brass and team mates .Make no mistake these are too very talented young men with different skill sets who want the same job….should be fun to watch ….Go VIKES

  16. By Vikings1 on Jul 26, 2012 | Reply

    @Smith

    Interesting analogy of the Vikings and Bengals, there is a very thin line between losing and winning and we weren’t that bad as a team overall except for our secondary and O-line. The good news is that we have all of our draft picks signed and it will be very interesting to see how they come together especially on the D-line and secondary.

  17. By Troutdaddy on Jul 27, 2012 | Reply

    @Parody- hey the only reason I said anything is that you were the first to comment on the blog and your comment had absolutely nothing to do with the topic. Sorry if I urked you but Ponder sleeping with champions just seemed a little off for you. Its not that I don’t like to joke around myself- it just hit me the wrong way. You are also not the only one I have called out. I have also ticked off several others about content (Language & disrespect) Maybe I need thicker skin…

  18. By Purplele Blood on Jul 27, 2012 | Reply

    All the right moves have been made ! now it’s time to put in work ,it’s time to groan and sweat learn and teach time to put all the things that have been done to make this soon to be juggernaut go and make all those so called experts eat their words! lets gooo VIKES !!!!!

  19. By LariatQ on Jul 28, 2012 | Reply

    I am hoping for an improved secondary. Since Favre’s first year with the Vikings, I have been concerned for the defensive secondary, and honestly believe that it is the major problem the Vikings have had. After the Defensive Secondary, we need to make up for the loss of Pat Williams, and shore up the Defensive Tackle spot, next to Kevin Williams.

    If these are addressed, the Vikings will vie for the Division Title.

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