Sunday slant: Williams ‘killing it' at nose

The Vikings are doing more than just giving lip service to the idea of Kevin Williams at nose tackle. Leslie Frazier will consider it and Jared Allen said it was fun and effective having Williams there. It might be the right move to extend Williams' career and it puts the best linemen on the field at the same time.

Position changes are usually reserved for young players trying to make a roster, like Joe Webb from receiver to quarterback and back again. Fans over 30 might remember the attempt with wide receiver/defensive back Robert Tate during the Denny Green era.

Kevin Williams, at 33, is no spring chicken, but he may have to change his feathers if he wants to keep earning his pay beyond this year. He isn't thrilled about a potential position switch, but he has always been one of the talented players willing to do what is best for the team. Once again, old-timers may remember that he got some time at defensive end early in his career.

Now, his versatility is being tested even further. Against the Washington Redskins, Williams slid further inside, from the three-technique or under tackle position to play nose tackle. It was a move made out of injury desperation. Fred Evans and Letroy Guion were both out with injuries and the roster was so littered with injured starters and contributors that the team had more injured players than deactive spots, which meant Guion and Rhett Ellison were active but not even dressed.

Playing the nose tackle spot, all Williams did was go out and have his first multi-sack game in four years. It seemed Williams was everywhere. In addition to the 2½ sacks he had of Robert Griffin III, Williams had seven tackles, two other tackles-for-losses and four quarterback hurries. That's an impressive stat line for a defensive lineman.

"I know he was very focused throughout the week, very disappointed in the way we fell short a week ago and determined to come back and help our team get a win. He's always like that, but you could see he was on edge all week and even before the game," head coach Leslie Frazier said. "I hope that's the Fountain of Youth he's found and we're going to see it the rest of the season because we definitely need an inside pass rush and we've been lacking that."

So is it possible that could be a move for the rest of the season, or even beyond? Frazier told Viking Update after the game that he would go back, look at the film and consider that possibility.

In fact, it wouldn't be the first time.

In 2011, after the departure of big Pat Williams, the Vikings leaned on Kevin Williams to give it a try. At the time, Letroy Guion wasn't quite as stout and was penciled in as a three-technique tackle, lining up further away from the center. Remi Ayedole was signed to play the nose in 2011 and turned into a wasted effort.

When the Vikings signed Guion to a long-term deal, they moved him to nose tackle full time and allowed Williams to settle back outside to his more familiar under tackle position. But is that really Williams' best position at this point in his career?

"The circumstances dictated it (Thursday) night. But we also have talked about where he is in his career that it might not be a bad thing," Frazier said. "We have talked about that. We've just always hoped that Fred and Letroy could hold it down."

The Vikings have been hoping that for some time. To date, they have been average at best. The pass rush hasn't been as prevalent this year and the run defense has taken a nose dive since Pat Williams left. After Kevin Williams' performance against the Washington Redskins, Frazier said the Vikings have to consider making the move permanent.

It might even mean a contract extension for Williams and way for him to extend his career

Williams was asked (read: forced) to renegotiate his contract in April, making this his final year at $5 million.

Williams said at the beginning of the season he would like to play beyond 2013. Up until the Redskins game, that was looking less likely given the drafting of Sharrif Floyd, who is being groomed to take over the three-technique spot, in the first round. But the Vikings haven't been as stout as they used to be when Pat Williams was around. Kevin Williams showed there might be a little magic left in his legs.

Jared Allen says Williams still has the quickness to play three-technique, but it's hard to believe his future is there as a starter with Floyd in the wings.

"He's a powerful man; he's a hell of a player still. It drives me crazy when people think he lost a step. Unfortunately in this league we are only judged by sacks now," said Allen, who said Williams was "beasting" Thursday night. "What he does in the run game with his leadership and the ability he still has to make game-changing plays just proves how good he really is. With his leadership and his accomplishments in the league, when he talks you listen and he backed it up."

There is no doubt moving Williams would cause a small ripple effect of changes. Floyd would become the starter at the three-technique, and Guion and Evans would move into backup rotational roles. It would also be an adjustment for Williams.

"There's a lot that goes into it, but you always want to do what you think is best for the team, and we'll make that decision," Frazier said.

"You're facing a different blocking scheme at the two positions, and what we ask of the positions are completely different. … You're a defensive tackle, but you have different responsibilities because of the blocks that you're getting and also what we actually do in the defense. But the fact that he's a veteran player and he has done it before – I think we did that a little bit with him in 2011 – he has familiarity with the position and he's been playing defensive tackle forever in our league."

Williams might not be a he fan of the idea, but if that's the best way to improve a leaky defense that hasn't gotten as much pressure from the inside, he's probably a big fan of winning and finding a way to extend his career.

And there's always this:

"If he got 2½ sacks a game, I'm sure he would live at the nose," Allen said. "I actually joked with him. I said, ‘You need to have them change your position to nose tackle – 2½ sacks at nose tackle might put you in the Pro Bowl.'

"Helps the pass rush, too, when you have a big guy in the A gap. We were able to get some spread. I'll have to watch the film and see exactly how he was beating guys, but he found something. He was killing them. It was fun."

Frazier said he hasn't talk with Williams about the possibility of making the move more permanent, saying "it just came up by necessity this time around." But Frazier isn't opposed to the idea. The reality is he and Williams are both fighting for employment survival beyond this season.

"When I look at this tape, the way he played, giving us an inside pass rush that we've been lacking for a while, yeah, we've got to reconsider that."


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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