Run Defense: Concern for Some, Not Others

The Vikings' run defense has given up more than 100 yards in consecutive preseason games, and the first-team defense has been as generous as any. However, those at Winter Park don't seem too concerned about it. See what Pat Williams, Ben Leber, Brad Childress and Leslie Frazier had to say about it.

Nose tackle Pat Williams is the self-appointed on-field gatekeeper of the Vikings' rush defense, one that has finished at the top of the league for the last two seasons in net rushing yards yielded. So it may have been a bit of shock to the system of players and fans when Minnesota gave up 162 yards rushing to Seattle in the season opener and 126 to Baltimore on Saturday night.

Williams, however, is adamant that there is nothing to worry about.

"There ain't no problem with the run defense. It's like preseason, trust me," he said Monday. "You all can talk all you want, but you don't have to be concerned about nothing."

The Vikings hadn't given up back-to-back 100-yard rushing efforts all last year – that is, until the final two games of the season, when Washington had 106 yards and Denver ran for 128. So is this a trend?

Williams doesn't seem the least bit worried. He even encouraged teams to try to run on the Vikings, whether that is this weekend against the Pittsburgh Steelers or when the regular season begins.

"We ain't worried about it. I want to see teams try to run on us. I want teams to try to run," he said. "Everybody is on the same page. If I say something, they're on my page. They've got my back."

Linebacker Ben Leber admitted that the team isn't worried about the numbers from the first preseason games, but he said the run defense has become more of a focus.

"I hesitate a little bit because we're not concerned about it, but it's become a little bit more of a focus. It just goes to show you that you can't just show up on the field and be a good run defense. We didn't take that approach, but it's just that we really do have to buckle down and stay on our keys and stay disciplined," Leber said. "The last two games where we really got in trouble was that we didn't stay 100 percent disciplined. Some guys in their own right were just trying to make plays and sometimes that's not going to happen and that can hurt you."

Defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier agreed that the gap control wasn't quite where it should have been.

While some of the preseason statistics can be attributed to second- and third-team players – many who won't make the regular-season roster – there is one stat that would seem to be a bit alarming from Saturday's game. The Ravens rushed for 110 yards in the first half, when the majority of the Vikings' first-team defense was on field, including Williams.

It might be even more disconcerting that rookie Ray Rice had 71 yards on seven carries for a 10.1-yard average. But there was one in particular that stood out to the Vikings.

Rice took a handoff and had a lane sealed off for him. He hit the hole and headed down the right sideline. Only a tackle from rookie safety Tyrell Johnson 42 yards down the field saved that from becoming a touchdown on the Ravens' second play from scrimmage. Five plays later, Rice found an opening over the left guard for a 6-yard touchdown.

"Baltimore broke a long run in that first quarter against our first unit where we got out of our gaps. That's one of the things we pride ourselves on, being disciplined in our run defense and everybody being gap-accountable," Frazier said. "We got out of our gaps and we saw the results from it, so hopefully that will get us back to what we preach all of the time about run defense, and that's staying where you need to be and letting the play come to you."

Head coach Brad Childress admitted that gap accountability was a problem on Rice's run, but he liked the fact that players came back to the sideline and admitted their mistakes.

"I sure don't appreciate a 45-yard run. However, once again coming to the sideline over the course of time you could stand there and go through a 10-play series with the offense on the field and try to figure out what happened by looking at pictures and nobody's being straightforward, but when you have some accountability on defense, somebody will say, ‘I got out of my gap. A had this gap.' So then you can deal with what's forward and you're not trying to fix what's behind you. Those guys have the maturity to be able to come to the sideline, sit down, look at the picture and somebody will be able to tell you, ‘I was supposed be in the A-gap, B-gap or the D-gap playing this defense and I peeked my head inside.'"

Leber said part of the problem is that the Vikings don't game-plan much for preseason opponents.

"It just comes down to doing the small things right. Even though it's a limited menu as far as defense goes, it's still tough to just go out there with virtually no game plan and play against a team that you don't know what they're going to do. So there is a little bit of guesswork that goes into making split-second decisions," he said. "The preseason is just to get everybody's feet wet and get accustomed the plays."

NOTES

  • The Vikings returned to practice at Winter Park Monday for a morning walkthrough inside and an afternoon practice outside. Media access to the afternoon practice was limited to stretching, but offensive linemen John Sullivan and Tim Mattran didn't appear ready to participate in practice.

  • Quarterback Tarvaris Jackson attended practice with his jersey on, but he was limited in stretching exercises and was wearing a brace on his right knee. Jackson has a "mild" sprain of his right medial collateral ligament suffered in the first quarter of Saturday's win over the Ravens, but Childress said he did some throwing. Jackson wasn't on the field at the end of practice, but Childress said he wants to see him go through a routine of trying to get back into action for a game coming off an injury. However long of a shot Jackson might be to play on Saturday, Childress maintained that it was a possibility.

  • Williams, who left Saturday's game for a couple plays in the second quarter but returned, was at practice and looked ready to participate.

  • Frazier spotlighted defenders like linemen Leger Douzable and Letroy Guion and linebackers Vinny Ciurciu and David Herron as some of those that stood out from Saturday's win.

  • Childress said the afternoon practice, conducted with temperatures in the 90s, provided a few heat-related issues for some of the players, who were taken inside to rehydrate. Meanwhile DE Jared and a few others stayed after practice for some more conditioning.

  • Frazier said the chemistry between Allen and defensive tackles Pat Williams and Kevin Williams has come along faster than he expected.

  • SI.com's Peter King puts the chances of the Colts' Peyton Manning missing the regular-season opener at about "30, 35 percent." Why is that relevant here? The Vikings play the Colts in the second game of the season, and Manning hasn't returned to practice yet after the removal of an infected bursa sac on his knee five weeks ago.

  • The Vikings place DT Kenderick Allen (wrist) on injured reserve. They haven't made a corresponding roster move with one open spot.




  • Viking Update Top Stories

    \r\n","mobileBody":"Nose tackle Pat Williams is the self-appointed on-field gatekeeper of the Vikings' rush defense, one that has finished at the top of the league for the last two seasons in net rushing yards yielded. So it may have been a bit of shock to the system of players and fans when Minnesota gave up 162 yards rushing to Seattle in the season opener and 126 to Baltimore on Saturday night.

    Williams, however, is adamant that there is nothing to worry about.

    \"There ain't no problem with the run defense. It's like preseason, trust me,\" he said Monday. \"You all can talk all you want, but you don't have to be concerned about nothing.\"

    The Vikings hadn't given up back-to-back 100-yard rushing efforts all last year – that is, until the final two games of the season, when Washington had 106 yards and Denver ran for 128. So is this a trend?

    Williams doesn't seem the least bit worried. He even encouraged teams to try to run on the Vikings, whether that is this weekend against the Pittsburgh Steelers or when the regular season begins.

    \"We ain't worried about it. I want to see teams try to run on us. I want teams to try to run,\" he said. \"Everybody is on the same page. If I say something, they're on my page. They've got my back.\"

    Linebacker Ben Leber admitted that the team isn't worried about the numbers from the first preseason games, but he said the run defense has become more of a focus.

    \"I hesitate a little bit because we're not concerned about it, but it's become a little bit more of a focus. It just goes to show you that you can't just show up on the field and be a good run defense. We didn't take that approach, but it's just that we really do have to buckle down and stay on our keys and stay disciplined,\" Leber said. \"The last two games where we really got in trouble was that we didn't stay 100 percent disciplined. Some guys in their own right were just trying to make plays and sometimes that's not going to happen and that can hurt you.\"

    Defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier agreed that the gap control wasn't quite where it should have been.

    While some of the preseason statistics can be attributed to second- and third-team players – many who won't make the regular-season roster – there is one stat that would seem to be a bit alarming from Saturday's game. The Ravens rushed for 110 yards in the first half, when the majority of the Vikings' first-team defense was on field, including Williams.

    It might be even more disconcerting that rookie Ray Rice had 71 yards on seven carries for a 10.1-yard average. But there was one in particular that stood out to the Vikings.

    Rice took a handoff and had a lane sealed off for him. He hit the hole and headed down the right sideline. Only a tackle from rookie safety Tyrell Johnson 42 yards down the field saved that from becoming a touchdown on the Ravens' second play from scrimmage. Five plays later, Rice found an opening over the left guard for a 6-yard touchdown.

    \"Baltimore broke a long run in that first quarter against our first unit where we got out of our gaps. That's one of the things we pride ourselves on, being disciplined in our run defense and everybody being gap-accountable,\" Frazier said. \"We got out of our gaps and we saw the results from it, so hopefully that will get us back to what we preach all of the time about run defense, and that's staying where you need to be and letting the play come to you.\"

    Head coach Brad Childress admitted that gap accountability was a problem on Rice's run, but he liked the fact that players came back to the sideline and admitted their mistakes.

    \"I sure don't appreciate a 45-yard run. However, once again coming to the sideline over the course of time you could stand there and go through a 10-play series with the offense on the field and try to figure out what happened by looking at pictures and nobody's being straightforward, but when you have some accountability on defense, somebody will say, ‘I got out of my gap. A had this gap.' So then you can deal with what's forward and you're not trying to fix what's behind you. Those guys have the maturity to be able to come to the sideline, sit down, look at the picture and somebody will be able to tell you, ‘I was supposed be in the A-gap, B-gap or the D-gap playing this defense and I peeked my head inside.'\"

    Leber said part of the problem is that the Vikings don't game-plan much for preseason opponents.

    \"It just comes down to doing the small things right. Even though it's a limited menu as far as defense goes, it's still tough to just go out there with virtually no game plan and play against a team that you don't know what they're going to do. So there is a little bit of guesswork that goes into making split-second decisions,\" he said. \"The preseason is just to get everybody's feet wet and get accustomed the plays.\"

    NOTES

  • The Vikings returned to practice at Winter Park Monday for a morning walkthrough inside and an afternoon practice outside. Media access to the afternoon practice was limited to stretching, but offensive linemen John Sullivan and Tim Mattran didn't appear ready to participate in practice.

  • Quarterback Tarvaris Jackson attended practice with his jersey on, but he was limited in stretching exercises and was wearing a brace on his right knee. Jackson has a \"mild\" sprain of his right medial collateral ligament suffered in the first quarter of Saturday's win over the Ravens, but Childress said he did some throwing. Jackson wasn't on the field at the end of practice, but Childress said he wants to see him go through a routine of trying to get back into action for a game coming off an injury. However long of a shot Jackson might be to play on Saturday, Childress maintained that it was a possibility.

  • Williams, who left Saturday's game for a couple plays in the second quarter but returned, was at practice and looked ready to participate.

  • Frazier spotlighted defenders like linemen Leger Douzable and Letroy Guion and linebackers Vinny Ciurciu and David Herron as some of those that stood out from Saturday's win.

  • Childress said the afternoon practice, conducted with temperatures in the 90s, provided a few heat-related issues for some of the players, who were taken inside to rehydrate. Meanwhile DE Jared and a few others stayed after practice for some more conditioning.

  • Frazier said the chemistry between Allen and defensive tackles Pat Williams and Kevin Williams has come along faster than he expected.

  • SI.com's Peter King puts the chances of the Colts' Peyton Manning missing the regular-season opener at about \"30, 35 percent.\" Why is that relevant here? The Vikings play the Colts in the second game of the season, and Manning hasn't returned to practice yet after the removal of an infected bursa sac on his knee five weeks ago.

  • The Vikings place DT Kenderick Allen (wrist) on injured reserve. They haven't made a corresponding roster move with one open spot.



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