Source Cites Reasons For Troubled Defense

The Vikings looked to have an improved defense to start the season, but that same defense seems to have reverted of late. A team source tells us why, and what the organization plans to do about it in the coming year.

What role defensive lineman Kevin Williams will play next season has been one of discussion and evaluation. The talented rookie has played inside at the defensive tackle position, as well as lining up at defensive end. On Sunday, he will move inside during the base defense as well.

One thing is for certain, the Vikings appear poised to place Williams in a position where he can utilize his physical abilities, which are surprising quickness and strength.

Much of the debate within the Minnesota organization has been focused on improving a defensive line, which has struggled at times during the 2003 season. From what we've been told, the coaching staff, headed up by Mike Tice and defensive coordinator George O'Leary, has been far from satisfied with the overall play and execution of the defensive ends.

Sealing the edges of the defense or maintaining containment has been an ongoing issue for this Vikings coaching staff. Williams, a rookie, was expected to have problems as he gains experience at the professional level playing the defensive end spot, and the coaching staff is excited about his potential and growth shown thus far in his first season.

Compounding the issue has been the rather average play of defensive tackles Chris Hovan and Fred Robbins. Teams have rushed the ball, almost at will, against the Vikings defense, which appeared to be on the cusp of great improvement at the beginning of the season. Exposed by the Denver Broncos earlier this season, the Vikings have not been able to regroup and contain the running attack of the opposition.

The questions in the grand scheme of the Minnesota defense is, what can the organization do to improve this defense, yet again?

According to a team source, the Vikings will once again be prudent but active in the free-agent market and are in the process of scouting many defensive players at the college level.

"The play of our defensive ends, tackles, and linebackers is indicative of how this season has progressed. If you breakdown the film, you will see that our primary problem has been maintaining our gap responsibilities and containing the outside flanks of the defense," the team source said. "In the game today, players are quicker, stronger and faster. For many years, it was easy to say that football is football, but the time comes when superior athletic players change the complexion of the game. The case here is, we need to improve our team speed at the outside linebacker positions. Our defensive ends need to become increasingly athletic and understand the fundamentals of the defensive scheme and play within that set structure.

"We have been forced to play our defensive backs closer to the line of scrimmage than we would like, knowing we need the support against the run. All this has done has exposed our defensive backfield, much more than we would have liked."

Left to wonder about the future of some current players in place on the Vikings roster, the organization appears committed to changing the face of this Minnesota defense. Veteran defensive linemen and linebackers not named Kevin Williams might begin to question their futures in the Twin Cities.

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