Matt Vensel is in his first year at the Star Tribune after covering the Ravens for the Baltimore Sun for six years. He is a Pittsburgh native and a Penn State grad. Follow him at @mattvensel.


Mark Craig has covered the NFL for 23 years, and the Vikings since 2003 for the Star Tribune. He is one of 44 Pro Football Hall of Fame selectors. Follow him at @markcraignfl.


Master Tesfatsion is the Star Tribune’s digital Vikings writer. He is a 2013 graduate of Arizona State and worked for mlb.com before arriving in Minneapolis. Follow him at @masterstrib.


Notes: Alan Williams addresses Vikings' suspect run defense

Posted by: under Vikings Updated: August 13, 2012 - 1:13 PM

The Vikings’ Monday walk-through is complete and they will return to the practice field in Mankato again at 2:45 p.m. In the meantime, here are a handful of items worth discussing …

By Kent Youngblood

Stopping the run

Of course the big question for defensive coordinator Alan Williams faced today revolved around the work the run defense needs ceding 260 yards on 43 carries in San Francisco on Friday.

Williams’ verdict? Most of the problem can be traced to gap control and alignment.

“I saw a few misfits,” Williams said. “There were a few bad angles to the football. But I also saw some good things. I saw guys running to the ball with great effort, saw guys taking care of their responsibilities – just not consistently enough. And, of course, when you’re in the NFL and you don’t take care of your assignments, that’s the type of game you can have against a good team.”

Exhibit A in that department would be backup 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s 78-yard run for a score in the second quarter.

To be fair, Williams said defending the read-option is more difficult when you enter a game without a specific game plan, which was the case for the preseason opener. Still, better angles have to be taken. On Kaepernick’s run, for example, Williams said safety Jamarca Sanford took a bad angle.

“We want those plays, if they get out, to be 15 yards,” Williams said. “Not (78).”

But, even without that big run, the 49ers totaled 182 rushing yards.

“It was not a whole bunch of physical things,” Williams said. “Mostly it was guys who were not in their gaps.”

Removing the rust

Williams said middle linebacker Jasper Brinkley is still working off the rust of having missed last season following hip surgery. Still, Williams went out of his way to say he was happy with his personnel up the middle, starting with nose tackle with Letroy Guion, moving to Brinkley at middle linebacker and back to safety.

Williams said he was particularly pleased with the way Brinkley has looked so far in camp.

“He’s knocking it off,” Williams said of the rust. “He’s coming along just like we thought he would come. We’re pleased with Jasper.”

Better decisions

Special teams coordinator Mike Priefer said Stephen Burton needs to make better decisions on kickoff returns. Burton averaged 12 yards on two returns Friday night. Priefer said Burton made a bad decision on one return he took up the middle, and appeared hesitant at times.

“I don’t think he made a great decision on the one middle return,” Priefer said. “We talked to Stephen about hitting the hole, hitting the seam, a little faster. I think he understood his mistake.”

Etc,
-- Mistral Raymond and Sanford were still with the first team at safety during the morning walk-through. Williams said he was pleased with Raymond’s progress and expressed confidence in his ability to play physically. Williams also said rookie Harrison Smith looked good in Friday’s preseason opener. “The game was not too big for him,” Williams said of Smith, who has won points with his feisty attitude in practices. “He looked like he belonged out there.”
-- Guion, who sprained his knee Friday, looked good in the limited snaps he got at nose tackle. “The play he went out on was a fantastic play,” Williams said. “We preach great hustle all the way through, and on that play he was down the field making a tackle. … I’m pleased with how he’s coming along.”
-- Williams said backup defensive tackle Fred Evans looked good Friday. Evans had three tackles and a sack.
-- Priefer was asked if Olympic star sprinter Usain Bolt could make it in the NFL as a kick returner. “I’m not going to say he can’t, because he’s big and strong and he can run,” Priefer said. “But those of you who remember Renaldo Nehemiah, I think we’ve already tried that experiment. And it didn’t work out so well for him.” Nehemiah was a dominant hurdler who played for San Francisco for three seasons in the early 1980s.
--Williams said cornerback Josh Robinson (hamstring) will return to action Friday against Buffalo. 

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