Rejuvenated Williams fills hole at Vikings' nose tackle

  • Article by: CHIP SCOGGINS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 9, 2013 - 12:31 AM

But, at 33, Kevin Williams prefers former position.

 

Kevin Williams figured he’d sleep all day Friday after playing a season-high 63 snaps at nose tackle in a 34-27 victory the night before against the Washington Redskins.

In reality, those bumps and bruises collected from banging bodies at the defense’s anchor position made it impossible to relax.

“It wasn’t the best night of sleep,” Williams said Friday. “Just a little sore.”

He wasn’t complaining after playing a starring role with a throwback performance at a new position. Forced to play nose tackle because of injuries to Letroy Guion and Fred Evans, Williams dominated like a 26-year-old version of himself to help tighten the screws on Washington quarterback Robert Griffin III.

Williams collected 2½ sacks in the second half to post his first multi-sack game since 2009. Not bad for a guy who isn’t crazy about playing nose tackle.

“I just embraced it,” he said.

And if he’s still listed at nose tackle when he returns to work on Monday?

“Are you sure? That will be my reaction,” Williams said, laughing. “If those guys can’t go, I look at it as next man up and I’ll have to do it again.”

At age 33 and in his 11th season, Williams has built a résumé worthy of Hall of Fame consideration at the other tackle position known as the 3-technique. He’s been named first-team All Pro five times and earned six Pro Bowl nominations.

Williams now ranks 11th in NFL history in sacks by a defensive tackle with 59. He needs only two sacks to move into a tie for 10th place with Michael Dean Perry. Williams already is tied with Dan Wilkinson for most interceptions by a defensive tackle in league history with five.

Given the way he dominated at nose tackle Thursday night, it’s reasonable to consider whether Williams should switch positions permanently.

“My first thought I would say, ‘No,’ ” he said. “But I’m the ultimate team guy. If it will help us win games and give us a better chance to win, I’m for it.”

Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said the coaching staff will discuss whether to keep Williams at that position.

“I’ll tell you, the way he played in that ballgame, it’s something we’ve got to consider,” Frazier said. “We count on Letroy and Fred to do a good job for us there, but Kevin did some really good things.”

Thin at nose tackle

Injuries to Guion and Evans have left the Vikings with only three healthy tackles: Williams, rookie Sharrif Floyd and little-used backup Chase Baker.

So on Monday, defensive line coach Brendan Daly told Williams that the coaches needed him to slide over one spot. Williams joked that Floyd should play nose tackle since he’s younger.

Williams said the Vikings experimented with him at that position against Green Bay last season. And he gained a better appreciation for his former tag-team partner Pat Williams, who joined Kevin to form the Williams Wall during their years together in the middle of the Vikings defense.

“They come from all sides,” Kevin said. “I see why Big Pat kept getting those elbow braces. You move to the nose and it’s a little bit quicker. Your reaction has to be right.”

Frazier doesn’t doubt that Williams could excel at that position, but he said the ripple effect gives him pause. Specifically, Floyd would be required to play more snaps as the starting 3-technique.

“There’s a lot that goes into it,” Frazier said. “But you always want to do what you think is best for the team.”

‘A powerful man’

Williams, who is in the final year of his contract, raised the possibility that he might consider switching to nose tackle “in the future.” Williams has said on several occasions that he would like to play a few more seasons with the Vikings.

“I think I still have a few more games like that before it’s all said and done,” he said.

Williams remains one of the most respected players in the locker room, which was evident in the way numerous teammates gushed about his performance Thursday night.

“He’s a powerful man,” defensive end Jared Allen said. “It drives me crazy when people think he lost a step. What he does in the run game and the ability he still has to make game-changing plays just proves how good he really is. With his leadership and his accomplishments in the league, when he talks, you listen.”

Williams figures Pat Williams will inevitably call to evaluate him as a nose tackle.

“He’ll call and probably tell me how bad I did,” Kevin said.

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