If Sunday's win over the Washington Redskins was any indication, the rumored demise of the Vikings' defensive line could be inflated, if not fabricated.
The Vikings had one of their best games of the season up front, defending both the run and the pass, despite starting left end Ray Edwards leaving the game late in the first half with a sprained right ankle. As they say, next man up, and Brian Robison manned up with a solid performance in relief of Edwards.
With Edwards sidelined, Robison got what might have been his most extensive action of the season to date. He said he played about 20 snaps each of the last two games after being as low as two to 10 snaps in previous weeks. But Robinson took full advantage of his opportunity and was able to get in a rhythm.
"Without a doubt. When you're in there every play, you can get in there and be able to set things up with your speed on offensive tackles, get them going with your speed and then you can start working counter moves and things like that. It helps out a lot," Robison said.
As a defense, the Vikings had four sacks – the second highest total of the season – and Robison quickly contributed to the cause. In his first full series, he came around the end and hauled down Redskins quarterback Donovan McNabb for a 2-yard sack.
According to Robison and linebacker E.J. Henderson, the Vikings didn't necessarily blitz more with linebackers coach Fred Pagac (pronounced PUG-itch) making the defensive calls and former coordinator Leslie Frazier stepping up to interim head coach. But Pagac, whom Henderson called a "fiery" coach on game days, did challenge his defenders.
"We just got after it. The fact of the matter was, Pug told us at the beginning of the week, if you guys get in there and get after it, we'll make some calls that allow you guys to get after the quarterback. That's what happened. We got after the quarterback," Robison said. "I think the energy of our team is hot right now and we're just going to try to keep it up and keep it going."
Frazier said Robison is opportunistic. When he's afforded playing time behind Edwards and Pro Bowl defensive end Jared Allen, Robison has taken advantage.
"Because of Jared and Ray, he doesn't get as many opportunities, but when he's out there, he steps up and makes plays and he did it again (Sunday)," Frazier said. "It wasn't a big surprise – he's a good football player.
And he's placed next to other quality defensive linemen. After getting only six sacks in their first seven games, the Vikings have 14 sacks in their last four games.
"I think the guys took a big onus, especially the guys up front, took a big onus to get pressure on (McNabb) with just basic Cover-2, front-four rush. They took pride in it and they came out and did it on Sunday," said linebacker E.J. Henderson, who sacked McNabb on the final play of the first half, one play after Edwards was injured.
Defensive tackle Letroy Guion, a third-year player out of Florida State, had been inactive only one game this year and contributed with a sack on Washington's first series of the game. He knocked the ball out of McNabb's hands, but the quarterback recovered.
But Guion wasn't the only defensive tackle pressuring McNabb. Kevin Williams didn't get a sack, but he had three passes defensed while helping to maintain his pass-rushing lane and not allow McNabb to scramble for yards up the middle.
"It was great to see him come out and play (Sunday) and play I think his best game of the season. He was dominant like the Kevin that we're all familiar with," Frazier said. "It was evidenced by the way our defense played. He's the captain of our defense, so we kind of go as he goes in so many ways. Our run defense was more what we're accustomed to seeing. A lot of it has to do with Kevin and the way he played."
And Robison is happy to help apply the pressure from a pass-rushing standpoint. Any chance he gets to prove he deserves more playing, he's all for it.
"It's an opportunity and I'm just trying to take advantage of it and show them that I deserve that opportunity," he said.
The previous two Tuesdays have featured Vikings players making visits to local hospitals to bring smiles to young cancer patients and their families.
This week, Henderson, receiver Sidney Rice, safety Jamarca Sanford and the Vikings' training staff stressed the importance of exercise to kids at the St. Joseph's Home for Children in Minneapolis.
"These young kids these days think a lot about sitting in the house and playing video games, so I definitely think it's important," Henderson said.
"I think (exercise) kept me out of a lot of trouble, being in the gym and on the basketball courts and being outside with my friends, so that's always the message I preach to the little kids – being outside, being active is the best way to stay out of trouble."
Players spent time throwing passes to kids, encouraging them in footwork drills, and signing autographs.
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
Robison fulfills ‘next man up' mantra
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