Defensive meeting helped set Vikings' path

A meeting of the veteran defenders with coordinator Alan Williams helped open the lines of communication with a healthy exchange of ideas on how to set up players to their strengths. It appears to have worked, as the Vikings are playing as good of defense as they have in years and rank seventh in the league. Defenders talked about the philosophy and their appreciation for Williams' approach.

Despite a win in the regular-season opener, Vikings defensive tackle Kevin Williams saw a need for a change in defensive philosophy. The defensive linemen were being asked to keep a more balanced rushing attack and Williams felt it took away from his aggressiveness.

One week later, several Vikings veterans were meeting with defensive coordinator Alan Williams and discussing what they were comfortable running and what they weren't.

"In certain situations we weren't comfortable running maybe some certain pressures, or some certain coverages and different situations, things like that," defensive end Brian Robison said. "So we kind of relayed to him, ‘In this situation, we don't feel like that's what's good for our (defensive backs).' He's done a really good job of … still, every once in a while, putting those coverages he wants to run into the mix but at the same time also allowing us to relay to him that, ‘Hey, it's something that we don't want to run this coverage because we don't feel comfortable doing it.' Then he makes the change with the call. Egos aren't getting in the way and we're really working well together right now."

The adaptability of Alan Williams, in his first year with the Vikings and as a defensive coordinator, has been a consistent theme among Vikings defenders.

The meeting between Williams and some of the veteran defensive leaders took place the same day that Antoine Winfield stood in front of the team to try to imprint on them the importance of every game. First came the defensive meeting, then Winfield's speech in front of the entire team, including all the coaches and general manager Rick Spielman. Those came the day after the Vikings lost 23-20 to the Indianapolis Colts, Minnesota's only loss of the season.

"Coaches always want to see the pulse of the team and the pulse of the defense from their leaders," linebacker Chad Greenway said. "For us, and especially (Alan Williams) being new and walking into a setting where he was sort of the new guy … he just wanted to see where we were at and I think it's important to have that line of communication and we definitely have that. I think you need to have that if you want to be successful."

Robison and others have expressed gratitude that Williams is willing to listen to their suggestions. They understand that he isn't always going to agree, but the open lines of communication are what the players appreciate.

"It's huge. Just having a guy like Alan that really respects his players, really wants to make his guys feel comfortable, a lot like (what former defensive coordinator Leslie) Frazier did on defense," Robison said. "When you have that kind of confidence in a coach, knowing that he has that type of confidence in his players, it really makes you want to play better for him."

Multiple players said there weren't any dramatic changes in the scheme after that meeting, but it appears to have been more about executing the defense for the players and coming to an understanding about which defense the players were confident in during certain situations.

"Ultimately, what we have to do is what's best for the team, overall," Alan Williams said. "We don't want to put square pegs in round holes, but when it's all said it done it's what's going to be best for the defense and what's best for the Minnesota Vikings football team and not necessarily the individual."

Williams has preached fundamentals and doing the little things better than others in his first season as defensive coordinator.

In many ways, he is similar to Frazier and another former Vikings defensive coordinator, Tony Dungy. They have all run similar schemes and all of them are the picture of composure on the sidelines.

Robison said the players have tried to loosen him up, but Williams remains true to his personality. He admitted he isn't a "rah-rah guy," as Robison termed it.

But his approach to coaching is also appreciated.

"He's one of those guys that if you are doing something bad, he's going to pull you to the side and tell you. He's not going to embarrass you," Robison said. "At the same time, if you do something good, he is going to let everybody know about it. He's just a good coach. He's kind of a players' coach and we like him and we like the things that he's doing. He's loosening up a little bit; we've just got to keep working on him a little bit."

Greenway said there wasn't a big change needed in defensive scheme, just a better understanding of what players' strengths and weaknesses were and how to put them in the best position to succeed. That has been a consistent theme with Alan Williams, who says he relies on the coaches that have been with the Vikings longer than him to guide him in that aspect.

"It can be tough if you're coming into a locker room with a lot of old vets, guys that have been in the league and they really know everything or think they know everything. It's kind of tough," safety Jamarca Sanford said. "Here, we just bought into whatever he brought and didn't question from day one was he the guy or not, or what he brings to the table."

Sanford and others said Williams reflects Frazier's open-door policy. Players are welcome to voice their difference of opinion at any time. It won't always bring about change, but coaches will let the players know why they agree or disagree.

Robison said it's been a relatively ego-free zone when it comes to those kinds of conversations between players and coaches.

"Normally, you don't have coaches calling your leaders together as far as just on the defensive side or just on the offensive side to really kind of figure out what they're thinking," Robison said. "Normally, it's call them together and tell them, ‘Hey, this is what needs to be done,' instead of saying, ‘Hey, what are you guys thinking?' To hear that from him just kind of boosts your confidence a little bit."


Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.


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He's done a really good job of … still, every once in a while, putting those coverages he wants to run into the mix but at the same time also allowing us to relay to him that, ‘Hey, it's something that we don't want to run this coverage because we don't feel comfortable doing it.' Then he makes the change with the call. Egos aren't getting in the way and we're really working well together right now.\" The adaptability of Alan Williams, in his first year with the Vikings and as a defensive coordinator, has been a consistent theme among Vikings defenders. The meeting between Williams and some of the veteran defensive leaders took place the same day that Antoine Winfield stood in front of the team to try to imprint on them the importance of every game. First came the defensive meeting, then Winfield's speech in front of the entire team, including all the coaches and general manager Rick Spielman. Those came the day after the Vikings lost 23-20 to the Indianapolis Colts, Minnesota's only loss of the season. \"Coaches always want to see the pulse of the team and the pulse of the defense from their leaders,\" linebacker Chad Greenway said. \"For us, and especially (Alan Williams) being new and walking into a setting where he was sort of the new guy … he just wanted to see where we were at and I think it's important to have that line of communication and we definitely have that. I think you need to have that if you want to be successful.\" Robison and others have expressed gratitude that Williams is willing to listen to their suggestions. They understand that he isn't always going to agree, but the open lines of communication are what the players appreciate. \"It's huge. Just having a guy like Alan that really respects his players, really wants to make his guys feel comfortable, a lot like (what former defensive coordinator Leslie) Frazier did on defense,\" Robison said. \"When you have that kind of confidence in a coach, knowing that he has that type of confidence in his players, it really makes you want to play better for him.\" Multiple players said there weren't any dramatic changes in the scheme after that meeting, but it appears to have been more about executing the defense for the players and coming to an understanding about which defense the players were confident in during certain situations. \"Ultimately, what we have to do is what's best for the team, overall,\" Alan Williams said. \"We don't want to put square pegs in round holes, but when it's all said it done it's what's going to be best for the defense and what's best for the Minnesota Vikings football team and not necessarily the individual.\" Williams has preached fundamentals and doing the little things better than others in his first season as defensive coordinator. In many ways, he is similar to Frazier and another former Vikings defensive coordinator, Tony Dungy. They have all run similar schemes and all of them are the picture of composure on the sidelines. Robison said the players have tried to loosen him up, but Williams remains true to his personality. He admitted he isn't a \"rah-rah guy,\" as Robison termed it. But his approach to coaching is also appreciated. \"He's one of those guys that if you are doing something bad, he's going to pull you to the side and tell you. He's not going to embarrass you,\" Robison said. \"At the same time, if you do something good, he is going to let everybody know about it. He's just a good coach. He's kind of a players' coach and we like him and we like the things that he's doing. 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