If there is ever a time for one player to step up and make life miserable for an opponent, it is Kevin Williams. After coming off a sub-par 2010 season, Williams has battled his way through a disheartening 2011 season. He is overdue to being the Kevin Williams that has made six Pro Bowls and is putting together a Hall of Fame résumé. But, he needs a breakout game against the Packers to get things back on track, making his battle with Packers center Scott Wells this week's key matchup.
Williams came into the league as a phenomenal pass rusher from the defensive tackle position. In his first 32 NFL games, he recorded 22 sacks. In the six-and-a-half seasons since, he has notched just 27.5 sacks. It was expected that the Vikings would honor Williams hitting the 50-sack milestone last year. Why not? He came into the 2010 season with 48.5 career sacks and it seemed as though it was only a matter of time before he would reach that milestone. But, in 2010, he recorded just one sack and 2011 has been little better.
Williams had a foot injury in training camp that slowed him and then was forced to sit out the first two games of the season (both losses) – finally paying his penance for the StarCaps saga. Combine that with the loss of his running mate (or run-stopping mate) Pat Williams and the Vikings' defensive tackles have been a far cry from being the Williams Wall of recent vintage.
Wells is a veteran center that has taken a lot of snaps opposite Williams and knows the kind of heat he can bring. Without Big Pat occupying two players, Kevin has seen his share of double-teams and that won't change this week. Wells is likely to get help from both of his guards and they will do their best to neutralize Williams, which hasn't been as hard this season as it has in years past.
With Jared Allen on his way to the Pro Bowl and Brian Robison living up to expectations that were placed on him when the Vikings made the decision not to get in a bidding war for Ray Edwards, all that has been missing has been a consistent presence from Williams in the middle of the defense.
The Vikings hope the bye week gave his ailing foot time to heal up and get him back to 100 percent, because, whenever Williams is 100 percent, there are few DTs in the league that dominate games to the extent he can. Defensive tackle production is not measured by sacks. For that position, sacks are, in many cases, a gift resulting from coverage. Williams has been the exception to that rule, being able to combine strength and explosiveness to collapse the pocket and earn sacks for himself and his teammates when quarterbacks run out of the pocket. But those moments have been rare over the last year and a half.
The Vikings, who are a 14-point underdog Monday, will need to play a near-perfect game to beat the Packers at Lambeau Field. Part of that quest for perfection will fall on the big shoulders of No. 93. If Williams can return from the bye with higher octane in his gas tank, he is one of the handful of players that can tip the balance of power in a game in which few believe the Vikings can win, making his battle with Wells a key matchup this week.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.
Key matchup: Williams vs. Wells
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