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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San Francisco - WP: J. Affeldt 3 FINAL
Kansas City - LP: J. Guthrie 2
New Orleans 7:25 PM
Carolina
Tampa Bay 11/2/14 12:00 PM
Cleveland
Arizona 11/2/14 12:00 PM
Dallas
Philadelphia 11/2/14 12:00 PM
Houston
NY Jets 11/2/14 12:00 PM
Kansas City
Jacksonville 11/2/14 12:00 PM
Cincinnati
San Diego 11/2/14 12:00 PM
Miami
Washington 11/2/14 12:00 PM
Minnesota
St. Louis 11/2/14 3:05 PM
San Francisco
Denver 11/2/14 3:25 PM
New England
Oakland 11/2/14 3:25 PM
Seattle
Baltimore 11/2/14 7:30 PM
Pittsburgh
Indianapolis 11/3/14 7:30 PM
NY Giants
Milwaukee 106 FINAL
Charlotte 108
Philadelphia 91 FINAL
Indiana 103
Atlanta 102 FINAL
Toronto 109
Brooklyn 105 FINAL
Boston 121
Washington 95 FINAL
Miami 107
Chicago 104 FINAL
New York 80
Minnesota 101 FINAL
Memphis 105
Detroit 79 FINAL
Denver 89
Houston 104 FINAL
Utah 93
Golden State 95 FINAL
Sacramento 77
LA Lakers 99 FINAL
Phoenix 119
Oklahoma City 89 FINAL
Portland 106
Detroit 4 FINAL
Washington 2
Nashville 4 FINAL
Edmonton 1
(2) Florida State 6:30 PM
Louisville
Troy 6:30 PM
Ga Southern
Cincinnati 10/31/14 7:00 PM
Tulane
Tulsa 10/31/14 7:02 PM
Memphis
Air Force 11/1/14 10:30 AM
Army
ULM 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Texas A&M
(19) Oklahoma 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Iowa State
Northwestern 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Iowa
(24) Duke 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Pittsburgh
Maryland 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Penn State
Wisconsin 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Rutgers
Rice 11/1/14 11:00 AM
FIU
(21) East Carolina 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Temple
UCF 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Connecticut
Boston College 11/1/14 11:30 AM
Virginia Tech
North Carolina 11/1/14 11:30 AM
Miami-Florida
Washington 11/1/14 12:00 PM
Colorado
Central Mich 11/1/14 12:00 PM
Eastern Mich
Western Mich 11/1/14 1:30 PM
Miami-Ohio
Western Ky 11/1/14 2:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
NC State 11/1/14 2:00 PM
Syracuse
Virginia 11/1/14 2:30 PM
Georgia Tech
Purdue 11/1/14 2:30 PM
(17) Nebraska
BYU 11/1/14 2:30 PM
Middle Tennessee
(10) TCU 11/1/14 2:30 PM
(20) West Virginia
Indiana 11/1/14 2:30 PM
Michigan
Florida 11/1/14 2:30 PM
(9) Georgia
Georgia State 11/1/14 2:30 PM
Appalachian St
Kentucky 11/1/14 3:00 PM
Missouri
Kansas 11/1/14 3:00 PM
(12) Baylor
Texas State 11/1/14 3:00 PM
New Mexico St
Houston 11/1/14 3:00 PM
So Florida
USC 11/1/14 3:30 PM
Washington St
Arkansas State 11/1/14 4:00 PM
Idaho
South Alabama 11/1/14 4:00 PM
Louisiana
New Mexico 11/1/14 4:30 PM
UNLV
UAB 11/1/14 6:00 PM
Fla Atlantic
(4) Auburn 11/1/14 6:00 PM
(7) Ole Miss
Old Dominion 11/1/14 6:00 PM
Vanderbilt
Colorado State 11/1/14 6:00 PM
San Jose St
Arkansas 11/1/14 6:15 PM
(1) Miss State
Stanford 11/1/14 6:30 PM
(5) Oregon
Tennessee 11/1/14 6:30 PM
So Carolina
Texas 11/1/14 6:30 PM
Texas Tech
Southern Miss 11/1/14 7:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
(6) Notre Dame 11/1/14 7:00 PM
Navy
Oklahoma State 11/1/14 7:00 PM
(11) Kansas State
Illinois 11/1/14 7:00 PM
(13) Ohio State
(14) Arizona 11/1/14 9:30 PM
(25) UCLA
California 11/1/14 9:30 PM
Oregon State
San Diego St 11/1/14 9:30 PM
Nevada
Wyoming 11/1/14 9:45 PM
Fresno State
(18) Utah 11/1/14 10:00 PM
(15) Arizona State
Utah State 11/1/14 10:00 PM
Hawaii
Bowling Green 11/4/14 7:00 PM
Akron
Toledo 11/4/14 7:00 PM
Kent State
Buffalo 11/5/14 7:00 PM
Ohio U
Northern Ill 11/5/14 7:00 PM
Ball State
Vancouver FC 1 FINAL
FC Dallas 2
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
Ottawa 11/7/14 6:00 PM
Toronto
Calgary 11/7/14 9:00 PM
Brt Columbia
Montreal 11/8/14 3:00 PM
Hamilton
Edmonton 11/8/14 6:00 PM
Saskatchewan
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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 pmX30-12
Aug 28 - at Tennessee 7 pmX19-3
2014 regular season     
Sep 7 - at St. Louis NoonX34-6
Sep 14 - vs. New England NoonX30-7
Sep 21 - at New Orleans NoonX20-9
Sep 28 - vs. Atlanta 3:25 pmX41-28
Oct 2 - at Green Bay 7:25 pmX42-10
Oct 12 - vs. Detroit NoonX17-3
Oct 19 - at. Buffalo NoonX17-16
Oct 26 - at Tampa Bay NoonX19-13 ot
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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