Throughout the first six months of Alan Williams' status as the new defensive coordinator, he has been hiding his intentions like a well-disguised blitz.
Williams' first comments in January at the Senior Bowl indicated he needed to get a better look at his personnel on the Vikings defense. But, now, after 10 organized team activities and three days of minicamp practices, he continues to try to mask his intentions and keep the opposition guessing.
"There will be a few wrinkles and I'm not going to tell everybody who may be listening what those wrinkles will be, but my plan is to build a defense around the strength of our guys when I have fully figured what everybody does well," Williams said during minicamp. "We have guys returning, Chris Cook for example, Jared Allen is returning, as you all know, Chad Greenway, I'm waiting to see what those guys do best and tailor the defense around that."
It is interesting that Cook, the third-year cornerback, was the first player mentioned by Williams, but Cook had a promising offseason and the Vikings are interested in reducing the snaps of Antoine Winfield, who is entering his 14th season.
But if Williams is looking to exploit Winfield's strengths, the diminutive cornerback likely will be seeing a lot of time as the nickel cornerback, where he is closer to the quarterback for blitzes and to the running back to maximize Winfield's run-stopping abilities.
Kevin Williams, another elder statesman on the defense, said there are a few things Williams is changing, despite the base concept remaining in a Tampa-2 scheme.
"We're doing a lot of the same stuff. He switched a few plays and we're running a few blitzes different or added, but for the most part everything is the same," Kevin Williams said.
One of those changes appears to be moving Everson Griffen to linebacker more often. Griffen, who was drafted as a defensive lineman and played the majority of his time on the line, dropped to the linebacker level a number of times last year. This year, Vikings coach Leslie Frazier confirmed at minicamp, Griffen's linebacker responsibilities will be increased.
That could open up an opportunity for second-year lineman D'Aundre Reed to see more time rotating between end and tackle during passing downs, a role that Griffen had last year.
"Everson Griffen has gone in and out. He's been inside, he's been outside," Alan Williams said. "D'Aundre Reed has done a good job for us in terms of the hustle and intensity that he brings. I tell you, he's one that is going to give tackles and centers all they can handle if he's inside or outside. You have to pack a lunch because he comes to play every play so there's going to be some movement in there."
The defensive coordinator said he will handle his defensive line rotation much like a hockey team handles line changes.
"This is Minnesota and I heard there's great hockey here. We like to have a hockey lineup. When one group goes out, the next group comes in and we fully expect the guys that are in there will play hard and will hustle and will be productive," Williams said. "We look to have eight guys who have significant reps in the lineup."
That would be a bit of a departure from the way the Vikings handled the defensive line last year. In 2011, Jared Allen played more than 94 percent of the defensive snaps and fellow defensive end Brian Robison was in for more than 84 percent of the defensive snaps. Just how much that changes with Alan Williams running the defense instead of Fred Pagac (now the linebackers coach) and Brendan Daly running the defensive line instead of Karl Dunbar (now with the New York Jets) remains to be seen.
Kevin Williams said the organized team activities and minicamp were a time for the players to learn the plays and he isn't exactly sure what the personality of the defense will be just yet.
"We've just been trying to learn our stuff and get the young guys a chance to get used to the stuff we're doing," Kevin Williams said. "We'll see when camp starts and preseason how he's going to call it and go from there."
So far, the defensive changes under Alan Williams are a bit of an unknown, which is by design, but a few tweaks to the blitz package and a more liberal rotation on the defensive line appear to be two of the philosophical changes.
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
Assessing the changes under Alan Williams
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