Vikings defense: Closing the gap

  • Updated: August 24, 2012 - 7:28 AM

Vikings defensive coordinator Alan Williams truly believes a shoddy defense from a year ago can be elite if players heed three key principles.

Alignment. Assignment. Technique.

These are the catchphrases right now for what Vikings defensive coordinator Alan Williams believes can be a defensive revival in 2012. A revival by simplification, actually.

Yes, the new defensive coordinator is aware he inherited a defense that a year ago was disjointed and easier to pick apart than a State Fair turkey leg.

Yet here's how quick and dramatic Williams thinks the turnaround can be.

"We can be a top-10 defense," he asserted. "We just have to make sure as a coaching staff, we're in tune to making sure guys are detailed about carrying out their assignments."

The Vikings ranked 26th against the pass in 2011, allowing 251.2 yards per game and a league-worst 107.6 rating for opposing quarterbacks. And while they finished 11th against the run (107 ypg), that was a considerable dip for a defense that had been first or second in the league in that category in four of the previous five seasons.

To Williams, alignment, assignment and technique have to be at the core of the troubleshooting efforts -- with players being in the right place before the snap; understanding their job on every play without the temptation to do too much; and applying what they've been coached to do after the snap.

"I've always said we were not too far off last year," Williams said, "and it had nothing to do with talent. It just had to do with guys paying attention to detail and being in their run gaps and just executing the defense."

The preseason returns on Williams' hopes have been difficult to sort out. Two weeks ago in San Francisco, the Vikings allowed the 49ers to march 84 and 80 yards for touchdowns on their opening two drives. But there was a big asterisk -- veteran starters Jared Allen, Kevin Williams and Antoine Winfield weren't playing.

And with that trio back last week, the Vikings held the Bills to six first-quarter yards on eight plays. Buffalo picked up only one first down in the opening period and was on the field for only 4 minutes, 24 seconds.

So now, Friday night at Mall of America Field, comes the biggest preseason litmus test -- a battle against the Chargers that will see the starting defense play into the third quarter.

The game also will provide Williams an opportunity to gauge just how big the questions through the middle of his defense are.

The Vikings are far from stable at nose tackle, middle linebacker and safety.

Coach Leslie Frazier said he believes fifth-year vet Letroy Guion will be the answer in the middle of the defensive front.

"He can be a dominant guy inside," Frazier said. "With his quickness, his strength, his athletic ability, we just need to let him see more."

But Guion suffered a posterior cruicate ligament sprain in his right knee in San Francisco two weeks ago, aggravated that injury Tuesday and will now be held out against the Chargers, leaving Fred Evans to take his place.

In the linebacking corps, Williams has continued to publicly express encouragement toward Jasper Brinkley. Still, Brinkley, with four career starts to his name and a 2011 season lost to hip surgery, has done little in the preseason to earn such confidence, and the usually optimistic Frazier has continually expressed worry about Brinkley's confidence.

Maybe Brinkley's hesitance and lack of quickness are mostly just rust and a game like Friday night's will serve as a WD-40 bath, allowing him to sharpen his vision and footwork.

What is certain is that two weeks from now, the Vikings can ill afford to have their starting middle linebacker playing tentatively.

The other major concern tonight will be measuring the stability on the back end of the secondary, where safeties Mistral Raymond and Jamarca Sanford continue battling to join rookie Harrison Smith in the starting lineup.

After starting 15 games a year ago, Sanford has had a strong preseason and seems determined not to lose his grip on that role. But Raymond's aggressiveness a week ago against Buffalo provided hints he might be on the verge of a breakthrough.

On back-to-back first-quarter plays, he had stops of Bills running back Fred Jackson -- one in run support, the other on a dump-off. Overall, Raymond seems to be playing more aggressively and should win the starting job.

"I think he's feeling more comfortable in his skin," Williams said. "He's moving around, he's communicating more. He has his own personality out there."

Such assertiveness will be necessary if Williams' goals are to be met. Right now, the Vikings defense needs to gain more certainty up the middle.

Dan Wiederer • dan.wiederer@startribune.com

  • Chargers have had costly preseason; Moss loving football C8

    VIKINGS PRESEASON

    Up next: 7 p.m. today vs. San Diego • Mall of America Field • TV: Ch. 11 (100.3-FM)

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Kansas City - J. Vargas 7:07 PM
San Francisco - R. Vogelsong
Detroit 10/26/14 8:30 AM
Atlanta
Buffalo 10/26/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
St. Louis 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Kansas City
Houston 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Tennessee
Minnesota 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Seattle 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Carolina
Baltimore 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Cincinnati
Miami 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Chicago 10/26/14 12:00 PM
New England
Philadelphia 10/26/14 3:05 PM
Arizona
Oakland 10/26/14 3:25 PM
Cleveland
Indianapolis 10/26/14 3:25 PM
Pittsburgh
Green Bay 10/26/14 7:30 PM
New Orleans
Washington 10/27/14 7:30 PM
Dallas
New Orleans 10/30/14 7:25 PM
Carolina
Buffalo 3:00 PM
San Jose
Boston 6:00 PM
Toronto
NY Rangers 6:00 PM
Montreal
New Jersey 6:00 PM
Ottawa
Dallas 6:00 PM
NY Islanders
Detroit 6:00 PM
Philadelphia
Chicago 7:00 PM
St. Louis
Pittsburgh 7:00 PM
Nashville
Tampa Bay 7:00 PM
Minnesota
Florida 8:00 PM
Arizona
Washington 9:00 PM
Calgary
Connecticut 21 FINAL
(18) East Carolina 31
Miami-Florida 30 FINAL
Virginia Tech 6
So Florida 17 FINAL
Cincinnati 34
Troy 13 FINAL
South Alabama 27
BYU 30 FINAL
Boise State 55
(6) Oregon 59 FINAL
California 41
North Texas 11:00 AM
Rice
UAB 11:00 AM
Arkansas
Rutgers 11:00 AM
(16) Nebraska
Maryland 11:00 AM
Wisconsin
Texas 11:00 AM
(11) Kansas State
Minnesota 11:00 AM
Illinois
Memphis 11:00 AM
SMU
North Carolina 11:30 AM
Virginia
San Jose St 12:00 PM
Navy
Northern Ill 12:00 PM
Eastern Mich
(25) UCLA 1:00 PM
Colorado
Akron 1:00 PM
Ball State
Massachusetts 1:00 PM
Toledo
Ohio U 1:00 PM
Western Mich
Ga Southern 1:00 PM
Georgia State
Kent State 1:30 PM
Miami-Ohio
Oregon State 2:30 PM
Stanford
Fla Atlantic 2:30 PM
(23) Marshall
Louisiana Tech 2:30 PM
Southern Miss
(1) Miss State 2:30 PM
Kentucky
Georgia Tech 2:30 PM
Pittsburgh
(22) West Virginia 2:30 PM
Oklahoma State
Texas Tech 2:30 PM
(10) TCU
Michigan 2:30 PM
(8) Michigan State
Boston College 2:30 PM
Wake Forest
Central Mich 2:30 PM
Buffalo
Vanderbilt 3:00 PM
Missouri
Old Dominion 3:00 PM
Western Ky
UNLV 3:00 PM
Utah State
Temple 4:00 PM
UCF
(15) Arizona 5:00 PM
Washington St
Texas-El Paso 6:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Wyoming 6:00 PM
Colorado State
Syracuse 6:00 PM
(21) Clemson
Texas State 6:00 PM
ULM
(3) Ole Miss 6:15 PM
(24) LSU
(4) Alabama 6:30 PM
Tennessee
So Carolina 6:30 PM
(5) Auburn
(13) Ohio State 7:00 PM
Penn State
(20) USC 9:00 PM
(19) Utah
(14) Arizona State 9:45 PM
Washington
Nevada 10:59 PM
Hawaii
(2) Florida State 10/30/14 6:30 PM
Louisville
Troy 10/30/14 6:30 PM
Ga Southern
Cincinnati 10/31/14 7:00 PM
Tulane
Tulsa 10/31/14 7:00 PM
Memphis
Purdue 11/1/14 2:00 AM
(16) Nebraska
(17) Oklahoma 11/1/14 2:00 AM
Iowa State
Oklahoma State 11/1/14 2:00 AM
(11) Kansas State
(10) TCU 11/1/14 2:00 AM
(22) West Virginia
Texas 11/1/14 2:00 AM
Texas Tech
Northwestern 11/1/14 2:00 AM
Iowa
Maryland 11/1/14 2:00 AM
Penn State
Los Angeles 1:30 PM
Seattle
D.C. 3:00 PM
Montreal
Toronto FC 6:30 PM
New England
Portland 7:30 PM
FC Dallas
Colorado 9:00 PM
Vancouver FC
Montreal 23 FINAL
Ottawa 17
Saskatchewan 27 FINAL
Calgary 40
Hamilton 3:00 PM
Toronto
Brt Columbia 6:00 PM
Winnipeg
Hamilton 10/31/14 6:30 PM
Ottawa
Winnipeg 11/1/14 3:00 PM
Calgary
Brt Columbia 11/1/14 6:00 PM
Edmonton
Toronto 11/2/14 11:00 AM
Montreal

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Who wins and loses in football this weekend?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close