Brian Baker has been coaching NFL defensive linemen for seven years, and he coached Vikings linebackers for another two years. Still, Baker says he hasn't seen a player like defensive tackle Kevin Williams.
Williams burst onto the Vikings scene as a first-round draft choice (No. 9 overall) two years ago. He was a consensus all-rookie selection and the NFC Defensive Rookie of the Month in December 2003. After 10.5 sacks in 2003, he put up 11.5 sacks last year on his way to a Pro Bowl invitation.
The fact that he made the Pro Bowl was warranted, but Baker still sees a world of potential above and beyond what Williams has shown thus far.
"To be honest with you, if you asked me if Kevin has that kind of ability, just in terms of raw talent and ability and that kind of stuff, until we started playing I would have said no," Baker said. "To say he's a Pro Bowler, that means you're saying he's one of the top three guys in the NFC, but then once you see him play, his ability, it's unbelievable.
"Some of the stuff he does, I find myself pausing the tapes and leaning back in my seat and shaking my head a little bit. How did he do that?"
Baker has seen a number of very good defensive linemen under his tutelage. In Detroit, he coach Luther Ellis and Robert Porcher in their prime. And Williams' 22 sacks in his first two years in the league beat Keith Millard's former franchise record of 21.5, so Williams' accomplishments so far are impressive without verbal accolades.
But it's the fact that Baker indicates Williams might still be a bit raw that holds so much more promise for the future while allowing him to make amazing plays right now.
"He made a play last year – I don't know if it was the Green Bay game, but it was a home game – he was penetrating the A gap. We had him on a stunt. He was across the line of scrimmage, and he ended up falling back, and this description does it no justice. He ended up falling back and making the play for a 1-yard gain in a stretched-out B gap. I've never seen anybody do that. … All I know is he was there (the A gap) going one direction and then he was there (the B gap) making the tackle. He's amazing," Baker said. "Is that athletic ability? I don't know what that is, but that's desire. He's a different guy on Sundays. He's one of the few guys I've seen that literally has that switch that gets flipped. When we're in practice I tell him, ‘We're going to work on your craft so we get the skill level there so when you draw on it on Sunday, it's there."
If Williams' skill level isn't maxed out yet, the future holds some exciting possibilities. Already he led the Vikings in sacks for two straight years. His 22 sacks over the past two years are five more than any other defensive tackle during that stretch (Rod Coleman comes in a distant second with 17). Williams also led all NFC defensive tackles in All-Pro voting and was a starter in the Pro Bowl following the 2004 season.
While he is still more of a lead-by-example kind of player, there are signs that the normally soft-spoken lineman is becoming more vocal in the locker room and film room as well.
Part of that may be attributed to having two years under his belt. Part of it may be rooming with the more outspoken Pat Williams during training camp. Baker has another theory.
"He's getting comfortable. Kevin is a guy where trust is a major, major factor for him," Baker said. "He's not going to say a whole lot to you and really doesn't want you saying a whole lot to him until you earn his trust. He's not going to give you that trust just because you've got ‘Coach' in front of your name or just because you're a teammate. You've got to earn that. But once you earn it and once he trusts you and respects you, then you'll get a little bit more conversation. I think he's feeling a little more comfortable. I think he's having a little more trust and respect for his teammates. Not to say that he disrespected them before, but he's just a guy where you've got to earn that stuff."
To this point, Williams has earned all the accolades and honors thrown his way. But, according to Baker, there might be even better things to come.
"Like I told him, ‘I don't know how good you can be. I don't know; I've never seen anybody do the stuff you do.' I've never seen anybody do the stuff he does – never."
Kevin Williams Still Impresses Baker
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