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Hartman: Daly's system keeps Vikings line rested

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN
  • Star Tribune
  • December 28, 2012 - 6:11 AM

Jared Allen didn't like the idea of not playing the whole game. Neither did other Vikings defensive linemen such as Kevin Williams and Brian Robison, who for the first time are being rested on a regular basis in every game, no matter what the score is.

Allen expressed his dislike for the policy of new defensive line coach Brendan Daly and head coach Leslie Frazier. They put the system in and despite the reservations of the linemen, it has worked well, especially in the past three games.

Maybe the decision to go that way is the reason the Vikings have won three consecutive games and have a chance to make the playoffs.

"It is going pretty well," Daly said. "We've had a nice mix and guys have stepped up. We've had a bunch of guys jump in and contribute. We kind of have a little bit of moving parts.

"Christian Ballard goes inside, he and Kevin Williams kind of alternate in there. Then Fred Evans and Letroy Guion have taken a fairly equal number of reps at the nose position. Everson Griffen has kind of bounced back and forth between the right end and the left end spot, so he has been working all of those and then Everson comes in on the third-down package and plays inside. So it has been a lot of work by committee, to be honest.

"We've had guys fresh late in ballgames, and we've been able to do a decent job closing out those things. One of the objectives was to not only keep guys fresh within the game, but on the back end of the season, we don't have guys that are beat down and banged up with so many cumulative reps over the season. Hopefully you get a little bit fresher guy for these last two games."

Daly said the Vikings have been working that way ever since training camp.

"We've tried to do a good job, especially with the veteran guys, with limiting their reps even in practice, so there isn't the cumulative toll of the season and the grind is a little bit lessened for them, so hopefully you have fresh, fast and healthy bodies," he said.

Has the rotation paid off late in games?

"It'd be interesting to look," Daly said. "I feel like we have done a good job. There have been times in two-minute situations that I wish we would have been able to close the game a little bit more assertively than we have, but I feel like they have played well late in games. I do."

Helping Allen, Williams

Asked how Allen and Williams, two of the top defensive linemen in the league, have done this year under this system, Daly said: "Jared has battled. He has been dealing with all kinds of injury stuff, and he's a tough guy, a competitor and he has been productive for us. He affects the quarterback. You don't always see that in reflection in the sack numbers, but he's dealing with a lot of protection stuff from offenses where they're having to use multiple people to block him.

"He has done a good job of applying pressure on the quarterback. He may not be getting there all the time but when you're affecting him or you're forcing him to move off of his spot or not allowing him to scramble or move around or create big plays, there's a lot to be said for those deals as well. They don't necessarily show up in the sack numbers."

Daly said Williams' play has benefitted from the system.

"His overall number of snaps has not been what it has been in years past, because of some of that rotation," he said. "But I think we've gotten a little bit more consistent play out of him, and some more of the flash plays, because we have done that. We've been able to keep him a little bit fresher."

Robison is expected to play after missing the 23-6 victory over the Texans because of a shoulder injury.

Texas Tech rematch

When you watch the Meineke Car Care Bowl on Friday night, the Gophers will face a Texas Tech team that finished second in Division I in passing at 361.9 yards per game. They were 12th in total offense (501.4 yards per game) and 18th in scoring offense (37.8 points per game).

They are led by senior quarterback Seth Doege, who finished second in Division I with 38 touchdown passes.

Defensively, the Red Raiders aren't that bad, rating 39th in Division I for allowing 367.3 yards per game. On the other hand, the Gophers offense ranked 111th in Division I with 317.5 yards per game.

You would hope the Gophers don't have the same problem defending the Texas Tech passing attack that they had in the 2006 Insight Bowl, when the Red Raiders overcame a 38-7 third quarter lead and wound up winning 44-41 in overtime.

That night, Texas Tech quarterback Graham Harrell completed 36 of 55 passes for 445 yards and two touchdowns, mostly after the Gophers led by 31 points with five minutes left in the third quarter.

Big night for McHale

Kevin McHale helped the Rockets to a 87-84 victory over the Timberwolves at Target Center on Wednesday, coaching Rick Adelman's former team and beating the team Adelman is coaching now.

After working in the Wolves' front office and coaching the team, it was announced McHale was not returning as Wolves coach in June of 2009. President of basketball operations David Kahn then brought in Kurt Rambis, whose certainly proved not to be as good a coach as McHale. McHale became coach of the Rockets in June of 2011.

And two of the Wolves' best players -- forward Kevin Love and center Nikola Pekovic -- were drafted while McHale was still here, and the Wolves would be a ordinary team without them.

Jottings

• The Packers-Vikings ticket might be the hottest one in years, with some decent seats selling for $350 each. The demand for tickets is higher than any time since Brett Favre's first season with the Vikings in 2009.

• The Packers will be missing one of the best defensive backs in the NFL in Charles Woodson, out for the year because of a broken collarbone.

• Gary Smith is a longtime former trainer with several pro teams and local high schools, and every Sunday the Vikings play he sits in the Metrodome baseball press box with binoculars to try and spot any player showing any signs of a concussion. If he does see one, he notifies the proper officials to get that player off the field.

Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on 830-AM at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. shartman@startribune.com

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