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.


Defensive line snapshot: As starters get older, reliable successors are needed

Posted by: Updated: April 19, 2013 - 7:39 AM

As the NFL Draft approaches, the Access Vikings team is taking a position-by-position look at what will be available, offering insight and analysis on top draft prospects both through print and via daily “Access Vikings: The Show” videos. In addition, here on the blog, we’ll give you a brief review of how the Vikings are set up at each position heading into the draft.

Today’s snapshot: Defensive line

Current starters: Jared Allen, Kevin Williams, Letroy Guion, Brian Robison

Reserves under contract: Everson Griffen, Fred Evans, Christian Ballard, D’Aundre Reed, George Johnson, Chase Baker

Biggest offseason move: The Vikings have had no turnover on the defensive line since last season ended. Nobody hit free agency. No new players were signed.

Level of draft need: Moderate. Pleased with the way the Letroy Guion-Fred Evans tandem worked at nose tackle in 2012, the Vikings’ priorities at defensive tackle will revolve around finding additional three-technique options in the search for Kevin Williams’ successor. The defensive end position seems more solidified. But it is worth noting that Jared Allen, Brian Robison and Everson Griffen are all entering the final year of their current contracts.

You should know: The stage is set for Christian Ballard to enter a prove-it stage of his career. Ballard, originally drafted in the fourth round in 2011 out of Iowa, has spent the past two seasons as Kevin Williams’ understudy. And while Williams will likely remain the starter so long as he’s healthy, the Vikings also realize he’s 32 and entering his 11th season. Vikings coach Leslie Frazier has noted that much and says it’s imperative that Ballard take a step forward in 2013, emerging as the type of inside force that will free up top linebacker Chad Greenway to make more plays.

“We need Christian Ballard to really step up and come along,” Frazier said. “He's at that point in his career where he'll have to really show that he can hold that position down. … We count on that position to create double teams for us and [Ballard's] got to show he's capable of making people have to double him and not single-block him. That's what Kevin has been so good at throughout his career, which makes our defense and our run defense so much better. So, we need that from Christian. If he can't do it, then we're going to have to find someone that can.”

One more thing: Frazier hasn’t started worrying too much about the age of the Vikings’ d-line. Williams will turn 33 during training camp. Allen turned 31 earlier this month. Robison also will join the 30-something crowd with his birthday on April 27. (Back-up nose tackle Fred Evans will also turn 30 during next season.)

Still, to Frazier, that’s just a line on a birth certificate and hardly a tell-all of a player’s current potential.

“As long as they're playing at a high level, you don't get concerned about the number,” he said “Jared is still demanding double teams. People still have to chip him. They still have to keep a tight end in. He can still take over a game.”

All that said, Frazier acknowledges the need to infuse more young talent into all three levels of the defense. That’s where the draft will be critical.

It will also be interesting to monitor how Allen bounces back after being slowed by a torn labrum in his left shoulder for most of last season. Allen posted only 12 sacks, the fourth lowest total of his nine-year career and had offseason surgery to fix the problem.

On the issue of quality depth, Griffen certainly took advantage of his increased opportunity in 2012 and stepped forward as a key building block. It may now be the time for D’Aundre Reed to take a similar leap forward to realize his potential.

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Baltimore - LP: K. Gausman 1 FINAL
Chicago Cubs - WP: J. Arrieta 4
Houston 5 Bottom 9th Inning
Cleveland 1
San Francisco 10 Top 9th Inning
Washington 2
St. Louis - LP: A. Wainwright 4 FINAL
Philadelphia - WP: K. Kendrick 5
Chicago WSox 3 Top 9th Inning
NY Yankees 3
Tampa Bay - WP: D. Smyly 8 FINAL
Toronto - LP: M. Stroman 0
Atlanta 1 Bottom 9th Inning
Cincinnati 1
Seattle 0 Bottom 8th Inning
Boston 3
Kansas City 4 Top 7th Inning
Texas 1
Pittsburgh 6 Bottom 6th Inning
Milwaukee 2
Detroit 5 Top 5th Inning
Minnesota 6
Miami 4 Top 5th Inning
Colorado 2
San Diego 0 Bottom 2nd Inning
Arizona 3
LA Angels 0 Top 1st Inning
Oakland 0
NY Mets - J. Niese 9:10 PM
Los Angeles - D. Haren
Carolina 0 4th Qtr 3:52
New England 30
NY Giants 21 4th Qtr 15:00
NY Jets 17
Jacksonville 12 4th Qtr 9:45
Detroit 7
Oakland 7 3rd Qtr 11:35
Green Bay 22
Chicago 0 1st Qtr 14:53
Seattle 0
Tampa Bay 8/23/14 3:30 PM
Buffalo
Tennessee 8/23/14 6:00 PM
Atlanta
Dallas 8/23/14 6:00 PM
Miami
Washington 8/23/14 6:30 PM
Baltimore
New Orleans 8/23/14 7:00 PM
Indianapolis
Minnesota 8/23/14 7:00 PM
Kansas City
St. Louis 8/23/14 7:00 PM
Cleveland
Houston 8/23/14 8:00 PM
Denver
San Diego 8/24/14 3:00 PM
San Francisco
Cincinnati 8/24/14 7:00 PM
Arizona
Atlanta 8/28/14 5:00 PM
Jacksonville
Detroit 8/28/14 6:00 PM
Buffalo
Indianapolis 8/28/14 6:00 PM
Cincinnati
Kansas City 8/28/14 6:00 PM
Green Bay
NY Jets 8/28/14 6:00 PM
Philadelphia
St. Louis 8/28/14 6:00 PM
Miami
Carolina 8/28/14 6:30 PM
Pittsburgh
New England 8/28/14 6:30 PM
NY Giants
Washington 8/28/14 6:30 PM
Tampa Bay
Baltimore 8/28/14 7:00 PM
New Orleans
Chicago 8/28/14 7:00 PM
Cleveland
Denver 8/28/14 7:00 PM
Dallas
Minnesota 8/28/14 7:00 PM
Tennessee
San Francisco 8/28/14 7:00 PM
Houston
Arizona 8/28/14 9:00 PM
San Diego
Seattle 8/28/14 9:00 PM
Oakland
(21) Texas A&M 8/28/14 5:00 PM
(9) So Carolina
Wake Forest 8/28/14 6:00 PM
ULM
Boise State 8/28/14 7:00 PM
(18) Ole Miss
Tulane 8/28/14 7:00 PM
Tulsa
Temple 8/28/14 8:15 PM
Vanderbilt
Rutgers 8/28/14 9:00 PM
Washington St
Weber State 8/28/14 9:30 PM
(19) Arizona State
BYU 8/29/14 6:00 PM
Connecticut
(6) Jacksonville St 8/29/14 6:30 PM
(8) Michigan State
Bowling Green 8/29/14 6:30 PM
Western Ky
TX-San Antonio 8/29/14 8:00 PM
Houston
Colorado State 8/29/14 8:00 PM
Colorado
UNLV 8/29/14 9:30 PM
Arizona
UCF 8/30/14 7:30 AM
Penn State
Real Salt Lake 0 1st Half 5:00
FC Dallas 0
Montreal 6
Winnipeg 1
Toronto 8/23/14 3:00 PM
Edmonton
Calgary 8/24/14 2:00 PM
Ottawa
Saskatchewan 8/24/14 6:00 PM
Brt Columbia
Ottawa 8/29/14 6:30 PM
Montreal
Winnipeg 8/31/14 2:00 PM
Saskatchewan
Toronto 9/1/14 12:00 PM
Hamilton
Edmonton 9/1/14 3:30 PM
Calgary
Chicago 80 FINAL
Atlanta 77
Los Angeles 0 1st Qtr 9:30
Phoenix 0
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Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 preseason     
Aug 8 - vs. Oakland 7 pmX10-6
Aug 16 - vs. Arizona 7:30 pmX30-28
Aug 23 - at Kansas City 7 pm
Aug 28 - at Tennessee 7 pm
2014 regular season     
Sep 7 - at St. Louis Noon
Sep 14 - vs. New England Noon
Sep 21 - at New Orleans Noon
Sep 28 - vs. Atlanta 3:25 pm
Oct 2 - at Green Bay 7:25 pm
Oct 12 - vs. Detroit Noon
Oct 19 - at. Buffalo Noon
Oct 26 - at Tampa Bay Noon
Nov 2 - vs. Washington Noon
Nov 9 - Bye
Nov 16 - at Chicago Noon
Nov. 23 - vs. Green Bay Noon
Nov. 30 - vs. Carolina Noon
Dec 7 - vs. NY Jets Noon
Dec 14 - at Detroit Noon
Dec 21 - at Miami Noon
Dec 28 - vs. Chicago Noon

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