Out of position but in the zone, Kevin Williams was a force against the Redskins
NOV 08, 2013 2:24p ET
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Kevin Williams has manned the middle of the Minnesota Vikings’ defensive line for 11 seasons, a stalwart in the team’s 4-3 defense. He’s played some defensive end in his career, but he’s made a living -- and five All-Pro teams -- as a 3-technique under tackle.
Williams, a six-time Pro Bowl player, was at his best when he was part of the “Williams Wall” several years ago with big Pat Williams, now retired, occupying offensive linemen as Minnesota’s nose tackle. Kevin Williams has racked up 59 career sacks heading into Thursday night’s game and expressed his disdain for switching positions and sliding over to nose tackle at this point in his career.
After notching 2.5 sacks at the new position in a 34-27 Minnesota win on Thursday night, Williams might have to at least entertain the possibility a little more. Vikings coach Leslie Frazier is sure thinking about it.
“I'll tell you, the way he played in that ballgame, it's something we've got to consider,” Frazier said Friday, a day after Williams posted his first multi-sack game since Oct. 18, 2009. “We count on Letroy (Guion) and Fred (Evans) to do a good job for us (at nose tackle), but Kevin did some really good things. We just have to determine if that's the best thing because it would put some stress on Sharrif (Floyd). We got (Williams) more snaps last night because the three of those guys were rotating with Chase Baker.”
Williams moved over to nose tackle Thursday night, maybe reluctantly, because of injuries to Guion and Evans, which kept Minnesota without its top two options at nose tackle. Williams played there and dominated the interior of Washington’s offensive line to help the Vikings defense post a big second-half turnaround with four sacks and slow quarterback Robert Griffin III.
“It was just something we had to do,” Williams said after the game. “We had to go with six guys; somebody had to get in there. I just had to embrace it.”
But Williams has long refused a move to nose tackle, and still maintained his stance after the game, though with a bit more levity after performing so well.
“I told them earlier, we don’t need to get any ideas,” Williams said. “It's a lot of banging inside at the nose. It's just something the next man up has to do. We had rookies -- we had Chase and we had Sharrif -- so I think they rather I do it than throw those young guys in the fire like that.”
Floyd was the No. 23 overall pick in April’s draft and the expected successor to Williams at the 3-technique. Floyd had played limited snaps in a rotational role behind Williams all year, with Guion and Evans available at nose tackle. Without Guion and Evans on Thursday, the inside of the defense was left to Williams, Floyd and Baker, an undrafted second-year player.
Floyd made his first NFL start on Thursday and had two tackles.
“He played well,” Frazier said of Floyd. “He was very active, made some tackles for us, got in the backfield some. He's improving. He had a good game a few days ago when we were in Dallas, as well, so he's put together two back-to-back good games and I like the way he's improving."
Sliding over one spot is quite a change for Williams after excelling in his career right next to the nose tackle.
"You're facing a different blocking scheme at the two positions, and what we ask of the positions is completely different,” Frazier said. “Even though they're both defensive tackles, their responsibilities are different. So you're a defensive tackle, but you have different responsibilities because of the blocks that you're getting and also what we actually do in the defense. But the fact that he's a veteran player and he has done it before -- I think we did that a little bit with him in 2011 -- he has familiarity with the position and he's been playing defensive tackle forever in our league."
Despite drafting Floyd in the first round, Minnesota kept him behind Williams with a healthy Guion and Evans.
“We felt good, and still do, about Letroy and Fred at those positions, and there was no need to do that early in the season,” Frazier said. “And of course the injuries occurred and all of a sudden you're forced to do it. In Sharrif's case, we wanted him to be able to come along. Kevin was still playing solid at the 3-technique. So it wasn't a need to force him to be a starter at day one, with what we did at the nose tackle position and what we had coming back with Kevin.”
At least for one game, the move paid off for Williams and the Vikings.
No update on Ponder: Frazier said the team had no further indication on quarterback Christian Ponder’s availability for the next game, at Seattle on Nov. 17. Ponder dislocated his left shoulder on a run in the third quarter on Thursday night when he dove for the end zone and was hit by Washington defensive back DeAngelo Hall.
“We’ll learn more about his status in the days to come,” Frazier said. “But no different than what I mentioned last night: dislocation. So we'll see how things go forward with his shoulder. The good news is the fact that it's his non-throwing shoulder, which is a plus for us.”
Frazier said Ponder had been through more medical tests on Friday, but the diagnosis was still a “standard” dislocation.
“It's more now about how he heals up,” Frazier said. “They've run the tests this morning. We know exactly what's going on. Now it's a matter of how fast he heals and how much strength he gains back in the next few days.”
Injuries: Frazier added little more about the rest of the team’s injury situations. Minnesota had nine players injured and out of uniform for Thursday’s game, leaving two active game-day roster spots to injured players. Head athletic trainer Eric Sugarman and his staff were working with the players Friday, despite the players having the weekend off.
“Some of them we expect to be back,” Frazier said. “There are still some others we'll have to wait and see once we can get into next week. But the majority of them we do expect to get back.”
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