Rotation Keeps DL Fresh

Chris Hovan is becoming the Vikings' most used defensive lineman, as Brian Baker's line gets more specialized to keep fresher legs.

The addition of Stalin Colinet provided added versatility on the defensive line. It also gave the Vikings an anchor-type defensive end that enables them to keep fresher legs up and down the line.

Colinet's presence allows Talance Sawyer to move back to right end on running downs, with Lance Johnstone more of a pass-rush specialist there.

Sawyer can also rush from left end, or rookie Patrick Chukwurah can put a hand down and bring it from the corner.

At under tackle, Chris Hovan has become their most reliable every-down lineman.

On the nose, the emergence of Winfield Garnett has given Fred Robbins a break. "We still give them (Robbins and Garnett) relatively an equal amount of reps and see how it works out," defensive line coach Brian Baker said. "I don't think one has started to separate from the other yet. They both bring some different things to the table."

The result is fresher legs for four quarters. "If your better players aren't giving it all in the fourth quarter, maybe they're wearing down," Baker said. "So we wanted to find ways to give them a spell a little earlier in the game and see what happened."

Knowing when to substitute is something Baker does based on instinct. "Just by the feel of the game," he said. "It's not anything that can be calculated. Just kind of seeing where the guys are at out there. You start to get a feel for how the game is going to be early on. Then you can decide how much a guy has played and when you want to spell him."

All of the Vikings' defensive linemen can make plays, especially when they're fresh. "That would be the idea, to have guys go in and do special things on certain down-and-distance situations," head coach Dennis Green said. "That's what we're trying to do, and hopefully it will work for us."

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