New defensive coordinator Alan Williams has hardly had a chance to look at the players on his Minnesota Vikings roster. So far, he has spent more time working with outgoing college players looking to make it in the NFL than he has even looking at the players available to him on his Vikings defense.
With pending free agents at safety (Husain Abdullah and Tyrell Johnson) and questions at cornerback (Antoine Winfield's age and recent injuries, Cedric Griffin's knees and Chris Cook's legal troubles), Williams, who has spent the majority of his coaching career working with defensive backs, isn't completely sure what he will have to work with in the Minnesota secondary.
"Right now, all I can view from coaching circles in the way the NFL views it, guys were aggressive. Talking with guys in NFL circles, they play hard and I'll have to expound on that a little bit to wait and see what they actually are," Williams said.
That's the approach Williams is taking with the overall defense, as well. He was hired as the Vikings' defensive coordinator just last week and left only days later for Mobile, Ala., as part of the Vikings' coaching staff working with the North squad.
When he's done coaching Saturday's Senior Bowl game, he will have a chance to familiarize himself with the players on the Vikings roster, but he already knows his general philosophy – fundamentals over fancy schemes.
"I believe in the fundamentals of football. (The credo) goes from Chuck Noll through Coach (Tony) Dungy that champions aren't champions because they do the extraordinary things but because they do the ordinary things better than anybody else," Williams said. "We're going to rush the passer, we're going to stop the run, we're going to tackle, run to the ball. Those are all fundamental things, but we have to do those better than our opponent can execute their assignments."
That philosophy, along with his familiarity with head coach Leslie Frazier from their days together with the Indianapolis Colts, is the reason Williams was Frazier's choice as defensive coordinator.
While the Senior Bowl assignment offers the coaching staff an opportunity to get up close and personal with players on the North squad, it also gives the revamped coaching staff an opportunity to become comfortable with some of their new assignments while working with each other.
"One of the great benefits in this game is for Alan to really begin to assert himself in that coordinator's role and for us to develop the chemistry on that side of the ball as a coaching staff, which is as important as what we're going to do with our players in the fall because they really follow our lead as coaches," Frazier said. "It's a chance for him to get a head start on (organized team activities), on minicamps. In a lot of ways, this really becomes a plus for us, not just to be evaluating players and really chart a course where we want to be from a defensive standpoint. It helps him to establish his identity for our staff."
So why did Frazier settled on Williams over some of the other candidates that interviewed and were rumored to be of interest? Williams used words like "trust" and sending a "consistent message" during challenging times as some of the reasons he believes he was hired. He also stressed his role as a "teacher-communicator."
But, ultimately, the decision likely came down to Williams' familiarity of Frazier's preferred style of defense, with a leaning toward the Tampa-2 scheme the Vikings have used as their base defense. Williams, however, cautioned that "Tampa-2" has a different meaning to different people at this point in the evolution of that scheme.
"Everybody has their own version, in their own mind, what the Tampa-2 really is. And from what I hear everyone thinks that you're playing two-deep all the time, but that's a misnomer. The safety is probably in the box more than he is playing half fields. I'm not sure what Tampa-2 means to the public," Williams said.
"In Indy, everyone would say that we ran Tampa-2, but when Bob Sanders was playing, he was in the box a ton."
Which brings Williams back to the start – he needs to get a better handle on the defensive personnel he has now and what he will be getting through free agency and the draft before figuring out the 2012 styling, even if the basics remain rooted in zone philosophies.
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
Williams' credo: fundamentals over fanciness
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