Sharrif Floyd was the first of the Minnesota Vikings' three first-round picks last year, but he was the least-used among them.
Cornerback Xavier Rhodes played in 58 percent of the Vikings' defensive snaps. Cordarrelle Patterson, the last of the three first-round Vikings, played in 42 percent of the Vikings' offensive snaps. Floyd, however, played in 39 percent of the defensive plays last year.
This year, bigger things are expected of Floyd. The Vikings are expected to turn first to him to replace Kevin Williams, a free agent who has yet to sign and received little interest from the Vikings.
"With any rookie, when they come in, you see a little bit of a learning curve. I've gone through it, Everson (Griffen) has gone through it," defensive end Brian Robison said. "You look around the league, guys do it every year. When you're a rookie, there's a little bit of learning curve for them.
"But the thing you always saw with Sharrif, you can see with a guy his size, the guy has great mobility. He's had some flash on film where he had some plays that were just outstanding and he could run to the ball. I think Sharrif is going to be a good asset for us this year. I think he'll be a good fill-in for Kevin and being able to hopefully not have a drop-off at all. Obviously for a second-year guy, that's some big shoes to fill, but we have confidence in Sharrif. Obviously you see that with us trying to beef up our D-line. Sharrif I think is going to be the guy this year and we've got to make sure he's ready to roll and we help him come along and have him be able to fill those shoes that Kevin left."
However, Floyd will have a whole new system to learn. In addition to hiring a new head coach, the defensive staff was overhauled. Head coach Mike Zimmer will employ his scheme from Cincinnati and there will be new teachers in place.
George Edwards is the new defensive coordinator, replacing Alan Williams, and Andre Patterson is the new defensive line coach, replacing Brendan Daly.
What the Vikings are asking out of their defensive linemen will change, both in the responsibilities and the techniques. That part will be an adjustment for every defensive lineman and Floyd will have to continue to work on other areas of his game.
"Sometimes he tries to do a little bit too much. That's every young guy. I went through it. I tried to do too much sometimes," Robison said. "At the same time, we don't want guys to be robots. If you can make a play, make the play. That's the same with Sharrif. There's been some times where he's not always doing the right thing, but he can make the play. So we want him to make plays when he can make them, but at the same time we want him to be very sound in what he does on the field."
Last year, Floyd had 29 tackles and 2½ sacks. Williams had 33 tackles and 3½ sacks on 260 more snaps, so that production was similar. But Williams also had 19 quarterback hurries compared to seven for Floyd."
Robison believes that a year in the NFL will pay dividends for Floyd and help minimize the mistakes he says all young players go through early in their career.
"I don't think we're going to have a problem with that this year," Robison said. "I think Sharrif is a guy that does the right thing, he asks the right questions when he wants to know what he should do in a certain situation."
Floyd should get a lot more chances to improve in 2014.
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
Floyd ready for big step forward
Viking Update Top Stories
Sunday slant: Can Vikings meet expectations?The Minnesota Vikings have seen the expectations and hype surrounding their potential, but veterans know preseason platitudes don’t always equal postseason success.
Viking Update5:50 AM
Positional breakdown: Tight endsThe Vikings have plenty of questions at tight end with Rhett Ellison trying to return from injury and a numbers game for roster spots at the position.
Viking UpdateYesterday at 7:25 AM
Zimmer, Spielman remember Dennis GreenTwo of the men responsible for constructing the modern-day Vikings remember Dennis Green’s time with the franchise and trying to prepare to face him.
Viking UpdateYesterday at 6:34 AM
Holler: R.I.P. Coach Green, mentor to manyThe NFL lost one of its innovators Friday, as former Vikings head coach Dennis Green, just the second African American coach in NFL history, passed away of cardiac arrest. We take…
Viking UpdateFriday at 7:36 PM
VIDEOS: Green remembered by Billick, moreFormer Minnesota Vikings coach Dennis Green, who died Friday at age 67, is remembered by Brian Billick, Randall Cunningham and many more.
Viking UpdateFriday at 1:18 PM