Guion getting his first big opportunity

Letroy Guion will get his first NFL start (in place of Pro Bowler Kevin Williams) after three years of slowly emerging from the shadows. The 2008 fifth-round draft pick talked about what he's learned, and his teammates and coaches expressed confidence in his abilities.

For the first time since 2005, Pro Bowl defensive tackle Kevin Williams won't be playing in a regular-season game when the Minnesota Vikings take the field.

Williams, a mainstay starter on the defensive line since 2003 and six-time Pro Bowler, is off serving a two-game suspension finally being wagered after his 2008 positive test for the banned substance Bumetanide, which was laced in the dietary pill StarCaps. Williams' absence was hardly unexpected after all the legal battles he went through, but it leaves a lack of experience and continuity in a defensive line already going through a metamorphosis. Letroy Guion will be tasked as Williams' replacement player.

"Kevin's the type of guy that can't be replaced," defensive end Brian Robison said. "He's that type of player, but Letroy, we have all the outmost faith in him. We're excited to see what he can do as a starter."

While Guion has played in 24 games in his three seasons with the Vikings, he has never started and has been only a rotational, situational player … up until Sunday's game against the San Diego Chargers. He said he is embracing the opportunity to show what he can do in a more significant role.

"Definitely. I try to be more focused in practice and practice well this week and get ready for the game coming up on Sunday," Guion said. "I really didn't pay attention to what was going to happen with Kevin. But I always prepare myself to be ready when the time comes."

That time has arrived. Despite being in his fourth NFL season with the Vikings, Guion is still only 24 years old. He's spent his time mostly in the background learning techniques from Williams.

"Just the way that he uses his hands a lot, the way he gets up field on the pass and makes his move up field on the rush, I pick up little things like that from Kevin," Guion said.

He has steadily been working himself in the lineup more often with each passing year. As a rookie, Guion was active for only two games. In 2009, he played in seven games but less than 10 percent of the defensive snaps. Last year, he was active for 15 games, played in 26 percent of the defensive snaps and registered two sacks in the final six games (Williams had a career-low one sack last year).

"He's in his fourth year now and he's just made gains year after year, so we have confidence in him. We're just ready to see what he can do these first two weeks," Robison said of Guion.

"I just think he's an all-around defensive tackle. I don't care if you put him in there in passing situations or a run situation, I think he can play it. As long as we stay gap-sound we can help him out and allow him to hopefully make some plays for us."

There is one advantage for all parties concerned. For Williams, the two-game suspension offers him a chance to rest the plantar fasciitis that has been plaguing him during training camp and caused him to miss most of the preseason action. For Guion, Williams' injury allowed him to get more repetition practicing with the first-team defensive line, working next to new starters at end (Robison) and nose tackle (Remi Ayodele). And, for the Vikings, it allowed their depth to become more experienced.

"We have a lot of confidence that he is going to do well," Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said. "He's been practicing with the starters most of camp because of Kevin's injury so we've had a chance to get a real good look at him in this 2011 preseason and we're pretty confident he is going to do well, but it won't just be Letroy having to step up and do well. Our entire defense will have to play well on Sunday, but we have confidence that Letroy will step up and do well."

For the past three years, Guion has had Pro Bowl mentors ahead of him at defensive tackle. With both Kevin and Pat Williams not on the field Sunday, it will be an opportunity for the man nicknamed Baloo to show what he can do. He's looking to put on display the lessons he's learned.

"Just the education of the D-line, how you have to play it to be successful, I learned a lot from Pat and Kevin from the years I've been here, so that helped me out a lot," Guion said.


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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\r\n\r\n","mobileBody":"For the first time since 2005, Pro Bowl defensive tackle Kevin Williams won't be playing in a regular-season game when the Minnesota Vikings take the field. Williams, a mainstay starter on the defensive line since 2003 and six-time Pro Bowler, is off serving a two-game suspension finally being wagered after his 2008 positive test for the banned substance Bumetanide, which was laced in the dietary pill StarCaps. Williams' absence was hardly unexpected after all the legal battles he went through, but it leaves a lack of experience and continuity in a defensive line already going through a metamorphosis. Letroy Guion will be tasked as Williams' replacement player. \"Kevin's the type of guy that can't be replaced,\" defensive end Brian Robison said. \"He's that type of player, but Letroy, we have all the outmost faith in him. We're excited to see what he can do as a starter.\" While Guion has played in 24 games in his three seasons with the Vikings, he has never started and has been only a rotational, situational player … up until Sunday's game against the San Diego Chargers. He said he is embracing the opportunity to show what he can do in a more significant role. \"Definitely. I try to be more focused in practice and practice well this week and get ready for the game coming up on Sunday,\" Guion said. \"I really didn't pay attention to what was going to happen with Kevin. But I always prepare myself to be ready when the time comes.\" That time has arrived. Despite being in his fourth NFL season with the Vikings, Guion is still only 24 years old. He's spent his time mostly in the background learning techniques from Williams. \"Just the way that he uses his hands a lot, the way he gets up field on the pass and makes his move up field on the rush, I pick up little things like that from Kevin,\" Guion said. He has steadily been working himself in the lineup more often with each passing year. As a rookie, Guion was active for only two games. In 2009, he played in seven games but less than 10 percent of the defensive snaps. Last year, he was active for 15 games, played in 26 percent of the defensive snaps and registered two sacks in the final six games (Williams had a career-low one sack last year). \"He's in his fourth year now and he's just made gains year after year, so we have confidence in him. We're just ready to see what he can do these first two weeks,\" Robison said of Guion. \"I just think he's an all-around defensive tackle. I don't care if you put him in there in passing situations or a run situation, I think he can play it. As long as we stay gap-sound we can help him out and allow him to hopefully make some plays for us.\" There is one advantage for all parties concerned. For Williams, the two-game suspension offers him a chance to rest the plantar fasciitis that has been plaguing him during training camp and caused him to miss most of the preseason action. For Guion, Williams' injury allowed him to get more repetition practicing with the first-team defensive line, working next to new starters at end (Robison) and nose tackle (Remi Ayodele). And, for the Vikings, it allowed their depth to become more experienced. \"We have a lot of confidence that he is going to do well,\" Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said. \"He's been practicing with the starters most of camp because of Kevin's injury so we've had a chance to get a real good look at him in this 2011 preseason and we're pretty confident he is going to do well, but it won't just be Letroy having to step up and do well. 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