Alan Williams (John Emms/Viking Update)
Defensive coordinator Alan Williams is running a defense similar to the one the Vikings employed last year, so Williams is making the adjustment with terminology rather than asking his players to do it.
For the second straight year, the Vikings are entering the training camp/preseason period with a new defensive coordinator. Last year, it was promoted-subsequently-demoted linebackers coach Fred Pagac. In 2012, it is Alan Williams.
Williams, like former defensive coordinator and now head coach Leslie Frazier, has a history in the Tony Dungy coaching tree dating back a decade. However, while it may be assumed that he would have a similar coaching philosophy as his predecessors, Williams said his defense is different and the playbook is being implemented incrementally.
“We’re taking that fairly slow,” Williams said. “We want to make sure that we install it slowly so the guys get it. We’re not just going to throw it all out there and let them pick it up. We want to go piece by piece, be detailed about what we do.”
Williams said that, to this point, only about 20 percent of the defense has been installed and that the scheme is being introduced in the style of “situational football” that highlight specific duties in specific situations, like short-yardage of third-and-long scenarios. On Tuesday, the team worked extensively on its short-yardage and goal-line packages, presumably part of the 20 percent that has already been installed.
It may not be so much that the Vikings are adjusting to Williams’ defensive philosophy as it is Williams adjusting his style to the players he has. He has changed his own terminology to fit in with what the Vikings have used under Frazier and Pagac when they were the defensive coordinators. Williams felt it would be easier for him to adjust to new terminology than ask 11 starters and just as many, if not more, backups to learn new verbiage.
Williams is getting a handle on what he has (and doesn’t have) at key positions by what they did last season to extrapolate how those players will fit in his system.
“To determine that, we do use last year’s tape and I think that is critical, especially with the amount of (live hitting) practices that they have cut away,” Williams said. “You have to do that and you have to put guys in drills and do various things – be creative in terms being able to set up situations to evaluate guys. We try to use all those tools to evaluate last year – drills, live work this year, along with the preseason to get that evaluation.”
Williams’ philosophy won’t be to throw players out on the field to take every snap. In fact, Williams made a comparison between his defensive style and the rotation of a hockey team. While it doesn’t mean that players like Jared Allen, Kevin Williams and Chad Greenway will become part-time players, there will be a lot of situational rotation on the roster and those who are active on game day in Williams’ defense will likely all see time on the field during the game.
“When we’re at the end of the ball game and the game is on the line, we have to close it out,” he said. “It’s just that at the end, we want guys fresh and we want to close it out. That is game-specific and season-specific so, at the end of the year, we don’t have a guy that has 1,000 reps under his belt. We want guys to be fresh so that when the playoffs come down the line, we’re ready to hunt.”
You have to credit Williams for his confidence that he wants his defensive players fresh for a playoff run. Whether he can get that kind of production from this group this year is subject to debate.
Today will be a solemn day for some Minnesotans for a couple of different yet profound reasons, thanks to anniversaries of tragedies that remain fresh in the hearts and minds of those that went through them. Aug. 1 is a darkly tragic date in Minnesota. In the early hours of Aug. 1, 2001, Vikings offensive tackle Korey Stringer died at age 27 from major organ shutdown after collapsing on the Mankato State practice field from dehydration and heatstroke the previous day. His condition deteriorated despite the best efforts of the doctors trying to save his life and, as teammates left the hospital in anguish, it was clear that the worst-case scenario had happened. His death cast a pall over the organization that was never truly healed. As one of the most joyful and popular players on the team, his loss was a tragedy for many of his young teammates. The Vikings shut down training camp for all to attend his funeral in Ohio and, while the team succeeded in the preseason despite missing several practices, the 2001 season resulted in head coach Dennis Green being fired and an era of Vikings football ending.
Not only is the Stringer tragedy a painful anniversary for Minnesotans, today is also the fifth anniversary of the I-35 bridge collapse that killed 13 people and injured 145 more. As a primary traffic artery through the Minneapolis side of the Twin Cities, the collapse was never completely forgotten since the site of the bridge collapse was closed for 13 months while a replacement bridge was constructed.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for 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.