Assessing the Vikings' penalty counts

An anonymous source had an interesting criticism of former Viking Letroy Guion, but how true is it? We look at the ratio of penalties to snaps played for a number of current and former Vikings and wonder how much those helped dictate their worth.

Anonymous sources can be a dangerous tool of journalism, but one "NFL personnel man" brought up an interesting point to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel last week.

In an evaluation of the signings made by the Green Bay Packers, the source criticized the ability of former Vikings defensive tackle Letroy Guion to play smart and disciplined. As the Journal-Sentinel phrased it, "new coach Mike Zimmer determined Guion lacked the mental acuity and released him."

Seems a bit harsh, right? Well, if that were the determining factor on why Guion was released – his $4 million cap hit had to be the largest consideration – then there was another signing by the Vikings that made no sense.

First, back to Guion.

"If you keep it simple he'll be OK," the source told the Journal-Sentinel. "He'll jump offside, do all the (expletive) that drives you nuts. The game doesn't come easy for him.

"I wouldn't be surprised if he plays good. It's a good signing for (relatively) nothing. But there will be some headaches."

Taking last year's NFL data on penalties and snap counts into consideration, there is a case to be made for Guion's penalty "headaches." He played in 388 defensive snaps and committed three penalties – one every 129 snaps. That's one of the higher ratios on the Vikings' defensive line, but they also re-signed Fred Evans, who had the worst ratio, committing a penalty 70 defensive snaps. And they made no effort to re-sign Jared Allen, who was the most-used defensive lineman and committed only two penalties on 1058 snaps (one every 529 snaps).

There is little doubt that salary had more to do with Guion's release than penalties, and that's exactly what another source told the Journal-Sentinel.

"It's a good bargain for Green Bay," an AFC scout said about Guion. "He probably wasn't worth the contract he was making in Minnesota. He's a contributing rotational player or a lower-level starter. He can play one-, three-, even probably can go out and play a little five-technique."

If penalties were a key measure of the Vikings' interest in a free agent player, then they likely wouldn't have signed cornerback Captain Munnerlyn to a three-year, $11.25 million contract. Munnerlyn played in 992 defensive snaps for the Carolina Panthers last year, according to Pro Football Focus, and committed nine penalties. That's one penalty every 110 snaps and it would have been one of the worst ratios among the Vikings' cornerbacks last year.

Robert Blanton, who played both safety and nickel cornerback last year, had five penalties in 391 defensive snaps, or a penalty every 78 snaps. Xavier Rhodes, who is expected to start at cornerback along with Munnerlyn, had a team-high six penalties on 674 snaps, or one every 112 snaps.

Josh Robinson, who likely will compete for a cornerback spot in the nickel defense, was next in the defensive backfield with a penalty every 144 snaps – four them in 576 snaps. Chris Cook, meanwhile, wasn't re-signed but had one of the best penalties-to-snaps ratios among the cornerbacks – one every 182 snaps.

On offense, left tackle Matt Kalil led the way in penalties overall – five penalties on 1,041 snaps – but that averaged out to one every 208 snaps, still worst among the starting offensive linemen but not surprising given the position and the need to get into his slide steps quickly.

With a low snap count, Joe Webb had the worst ratio on offense among players with more than one penalty. He had two penalties on 187 snaps, but Rhett Ellison wasn't far behind – two penalties on 294 snaps.

While Munnerlyn had a poor ratio of penalties to snaps, the rest of the Vikings' free agent signings were more in line with the norm. Nose tackle Linval Joseph averaged a penalty every 596 snaps, while defensive lineman Corey Wootton (one every 172 snaps) and Tom Johnson (one every 248 snaps) weren't quite as good.

The conclusion here is that penalties, if they were a factor at all in determining who to keep and who to acquire, played a very minor role. When it comes to Guion, his salary and overall performance were much bigger factors.


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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