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Analyzing Training Camp Battles – Backup Defensive Tackle

Posted by Mike Wobschall on July 29, 2009 – 8:30 am

Training camp continues to creep closer, as we are now only about 48 hours from the 1st practice (as of this posting). Players have begun to arrive back in Minnesota, much of the Vikings football staff has migrated to Mankato and Brett Favre has made his decision. So now we just have to finish up our “Analyzing Training Camp Battles” series here in the vikings.com Blog.

So far, we’ve taken a look at RT, nickel back and WR in this series. Next up is the backup DT position, followed in the next 2 days by the backup LB spot and QB.

The Vikings have led the league in rushing defense the past 3 seasons, a feat that has not been accomplished in the modern day NFL (since the 1970 merger). And the anchor of this dominant run defense is the Vikings excellent DT tandem of Kevin Williams and Pat Williams. Since Pat Williams signed with the Vikings in 2005, the tandem has appeared in 3 Pro Bowls together.

Given how important the Williams Wall is to the Vikings defense, it’s also important for the Vikings to have solid backup options in the event that the Williams Wall suddenly becomes the William Wall or no wall at all. This happened last year, when Pat Williams was injured and was forced to miss the final 2 games of the regular season.

As the team opens camp, there are 3 veterans who will be the primary candidates to backup the Williams Wall – Fred Evans, Letroy Guion and Jimmy Kennedy. As it stands right now, Evans is probably the most reliable option, given his presence in the DL rotation over the past 2 seasons. Kennedy, a former 1st round pick, was added as a free agent last year and Guion was a 5th round pick in the 2008 draft.

Guion is the wild card in this position battle because although he hasn’t played in many games since being drafted, he continues to be included in the team’s plans. He was inactive for 15 of the Vikings 17 games in 2008, seeing action at Tennessee in Week 4 and then also at Detroit in Week 14. Guion stands at 6-4, 303 pounds, so on paper he appears to have the physical stature to hold up in the trenches. Now, he must go to work during camp and prove that he can hold up on the field, too.

Aside from those 3 veterans, the Vikings also have a couple of undrafted rookies who will be added to this competition.  They are Antoine Holmes (NC State) and Tremaine Johnson (LSU). Both players are 6-2 and weigh in a roughly 290 pounds, and both players will look to learn behind a pair of Pro Bowlers. Holmes, who was a junior college transfer, played both DE and DT at NC State. Johnson played behind Glenn Dorsey and Tyson Jackson, a pair of 1st round DTs, during his career at LSU. As a freshman at LSU, Johnson was coached by Karl Dunbar, who is now the Vikings DL coach.

It’s always a numbers game for the coaching staff when it’s time to decide how many DL to keep on the 53-man roster. Given his past with the Vikings, look for Evans to be a favorite to get one backup spot. But any other spots that become available are wide open as the team is nearly set to open training camp.


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