Letroy Guion's knee injury is creating Fred Evans' opportunity. At least that's the way that Evans, the veteran backup nose tackle, is viewing it.
Guion entered training camp as the anticipated starter at nose tackle and the contract (worth up to $9 million over three years) to prove it. After one start, however, Guion suffered a strained posterior cruciate ligament and re-aggravated that injury last Tuesday.
In his stead, Evans and the first-team defense have performed admirably. The mistakes in yielding 260 yards rushing against the San Francisco 49ers were corrected in the next two preseason outings with Evans joined by the preseason debuts of Jared Allen, Kevin Williams and Antoine Winfield in the starting lineup.
Evans said he doesn't worry about the different playing styles between him and Guion, but he does view Guion's absence as an opportunity to gain a starting spot.
"Definitely. Definitely. Definitely. Definitely," Evans quickly responded when asked about that possibility. "Any person that's in a position as mine or even a person that's a first-teamer, that's your ultimate goal is to be a starter, to put on film that you can start here or anywhere else. That's always the feeling."
Guion took advantage of that position last year. Even though Remi Ayedole was the starting nose tackle with the starter's contract at the time, Guion was outplaying him, both in performance and the number of snaps.
While Ayodele played in less than 24 percent of the defensive snaps, Guion played in over 45 percent. Even Evans, who was mostly backing up Kevin Williams at the three-technique defensive tackle, was playing more than Ayodele at 27.5 percent.
Evans said he and Ayodele had a good rotation going, but the Vikings released Ayodele during the offseason and gave Guion essentially the same kind of contract – a three-year deal worth as much as $9 million.
The main difference between Ayodele's deal last year and Guion's this year was in the signing bonuses. Ayodele received $3.565 million while Guion got $2.5 million in bonus money. But Ayodele so badly underperformed that the Vikings were willing to cut bait and move on, much like the Saints did with him when they released him Monday.
"For whatever reason, the Vikings didn't feel the need to bring him back this season. That's out of my power. I guess they didn't feel as though he was needed this year," Evans said.
"Of course I knew that was going to be an opportunity for me to play more. You're always excited about the opportunity to play more and get a chance to start. I was excited for the opportunity for myself."
Evans said he and Guion are both "good defensive tackles," but Guion's knee injury could leaving an opening for Evans to see more playing time, maybe even be the starter for the regular-season opener if Guion's knee flares up again.
"We want to make sure we evaluate everyone based on their performance. No one is set in stone," defensive coordinator Alan Williams said when asked about Evans. "If the next guy performs well, we'll find a spot for him on the defense. And if we can find the other performing well, we'll make some substitutions and we'll get guys in there. I don't know if you can ever have too many starting-caliber players. If Fred performs well, we'll find a rotation for him, we'll find a spot for him and get him reps in there. That's a good problem to have. No one is locked in stone."
Evans said his responsibilities haven't changed much with Alan Williams taking over the defense. But the new defensive coordinator seems intent on rotating defensive linemen through more often in a way he compared to a hockey rotation.
That could mean even more snaps for Evans if he doesn't win a starting job, but he said the experienced veterans next to him offer motivation enough to play at a high level.
"Any time you get reps with the first team, you want to step your play up and play to the level of expectations of Jared and Ticket (Kevin Williams) and those guys. It just makes you play better."
Whether he plays more is yet to be determined.
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
Evans looking to make most of opportunity
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