Jared Allen (Bruce Kluckhohn/US Presswire)
The Vikings may try to move Jared Allen around on defense to help him get the franchise and/or NFL single-season sack record. Plus, Cedric Griffin is still in the Vikings’ plans and Christian Ponder could use an offseason to make the offense second-nature.
With only two games to play and 17½ sacks under his belt, Jared Allen’s time is growing short to reach the Minnesota Vikings’ franchise record of 21 sacks in a season. His quest for the NFL’s all-time single-season sack record of 22½ would also be within reach with two games like he had against Detroit on Dec. 11.
Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier is well aware of how close Allen is to the franchise and NFL records, despite being shut out on Sunday against the New Orleans Saints. Frazier said the Vikings will try to find ways to help Allen reach those career marks.
“We’ve got to come up with some ways to help him, not to always be in situations where two or three people are blocking him and try to get some of that off of him. But at the same time, it creates some other opportunities for other guys that will get some one-on-ones because he has a guy chipping him and then he has another guy trying to block him,” Frazier said. “Other guys have to step up.
“We are going to do our very best to see him lead the league in sacks and hopefully break that record. We’re going to do whatever we can to make that happen. He’s so close – that would be a positive coming out this season.”
Allen has played mainly right defensive end in the Vikings' 4-3 defense, but he has moved over the to left side on occasion. He has also dropped into coverage on rare occasions as part of a zone blitz.
He had 12½ sacks at the halfway point of the season, but since then has been held without a sack in three of the last five games. He got back on track with three sacks against the Detroit Lions on Dec. 11, but he was shut out last week by the Saints’ habit of double- and triple-teaming him. He needs four more sacks in the final two games to break the franchise mark established by Chris Doleman in 1989 and needs five more to tie Michael Strahan’s NFL record, set in 2001 when former Packers QB Brett Favre laid down for Strahan’s record-setting sack in the season finale.
“He’s a player who has goals and aspirations and you never know when you’re going to get this close again,” Frazier said of Allen. “I think this is his highest total of his career in a single season, so you want to get as many as you can in these final two games. It’s definitely something he’s conscious of, and so are we.”
WORKING IT OUT
It would appear that Cedric Griffin will remain part of the team for at least the remaining two games. On Monday, Frazier said he and vice president of player personnel Rick Spielman would sit down and talk with Griffin about his role going forward.
Griffin, who started 12 of the first 13 games, didn’t play a defensive snap Sunday against the pass-happy New Orleans Saints, despite Chris Cook and Antoine Winfield not being active and Asher Allen leaving the game with a concussion.
Frazier indicated the two have talked since Monday.
“We just talked about what we need and the fact that I have confidence he can get this job done. I know he can. I’ve seen him do it before,” Frazier said. “He’s got to have that same confidence. He’ll have an opportunity this week to help our club and I’m sure he’ll do well. I believe he’ll do well.”
It isn’t certain who will start if Allen can’t play. Frazier said confidence is a big part of Griffin’s comeback from two torn anterior cruciate ligaments in the last two years.
“Coming off an ACL, and I experienced that ACL, (confidence is) the thing that’s hard to get back,” said Frazier, whose career essentially ended after he tore one of his ACLs in the Super Bowl playing for the 1985 Chicago Bears. “The physical part he’s gotten back, but now you have to have confidence that you can do some of the things you did before the injury. If you plant a certain way, it’s not going to go out on you again. If you try to sprint in a certain direction, you’re going to be fine now. Having two ACLs? That has to play into your mind a little bit but he’s done everything physically that you’d like to see him be able to do, now it’s just a matter of having confidence that nothing bad is going to happen if I plant a certain way or drive in a certain direction, that I’m going to survive.”
AN OFFSEASON TO LEARN
With all the ups and downs that rookie quarterback Christian Ponder has experienced, Frazier believes that an offseason to take a step back and learn the playbook could be beneficial.
“With Christian, like so many young quarterbacks, you don’t want to base your judgment on one or two games. You really want to be able to look at what happens over the course of this remaining part of the season along with what happened previously,” Frazier said. “Then, give him a chance to have an offseason. He needs an offseason with our coaches and with (organized team activities) and some of the things we’ll do in training camp. That’s going to help him. I think it’s a little bit too early to panic about Christian. We have to give him some more opportunities.”
After going through last summer without being able to talk with coaches until shortly before training camp because of the NFL lockout, what are Ponder’s offseason intentions in 2012?
“Establishing chemistry and going back and divulging myself fully into understanding the ins and outs of the offense,” he said. “I’m going to spend a lot of time with (offensive coordinator) Bill Musgrave and (offensive line coach) Jeff Davidson and learn everything, and just small details. I’m kind of getting a feel for our offense. Last summer I had the playbook, but didn’t really know how things were run and now obviously being through a season there will be a lot of time to spend on those small details and work all the time and get better at the things I need to get better at. Having several games of film on myself to look at will help a lot.”
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.