With John Randle out of the Minnesota landscape, second-year defensive tackle Chris Hovan has emerged as the new line leader on the defensive front.
"The guys look for him for leadership because he does play very hard all of the time, never slacks a little bit," Green said about Hovan. "He always has that good effort, a very high effort. So that clearly makes him one of the leaders."
Going back to his college days, Hovan would imitate Randle. He tried to emulate his style of play. He even painted his face like Randle. But when defensive line coach Brian Baker, who developed Luther Elliss and Robert Porcher in Detroit, took over this season he encouraged Hovan to be his own man.
"Looking at it from the outside in, that's one of the problems Chris had. He tried to play like John," Baker recalled. "I wanted him to know that ‘my expectation of you is to be the best you can be, not for you to be the best imitation of John Randle.'"
Hovan (6-2, 294, 4.95) isn't a giant, but he's bigger than Randle, though not quite as explosive or athletic. Still, he has nice size and possesses good quickness, flexibility and explosiveness. He's very quick off the snap and is quick to gain the advantage in one-on-one blocking situations. He brings outstanding football character and work ethic and raises the level of those around him with his non-stop intensity.
Hovan might not be as flashy as Randle, but he's probably going to be a better all-around player.
"John's a great player, but at times he looked like he played the run on the way to the pass," Baker said. "Chris tries to be a good run defender. Randle wasn't a big enough guy to be pounding in there."
The non-stop motor is where the two are very similar.
"He's always had the passion, but he would get out of control at times," Baker said. "Now the test for him is the test for every young player: Can you start to string (a number of good games) together?"
Hovan has been a quick study. He started 13 of 16 games as a rookie, leading the team's defensive linemen with 54 tackles. He also notched a pair of sacks and six tackles-for-loss on the season. This year, he has improved his game a notch and has already surpassed his sack total from a year ago. The future looks bright for Hovan, as he should only get better and better.
Hovan Emerges As D-Line Leader
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