Williams Wall should keep run ranking intact

Pat Williams (Scott Boehm/Getty)

The Vikings have had the best rush defense over the past three years, finishing second last year and first the previous two years. Avoiding four-game suspensions to Pat and Kevin Williams would help keep that important element intact.

The recent court decision to delay the suspensions of Pat Williams and Kevin Williams may have a big influence in Brett Favre's still-pending decision as to whether to come back for another year or to spend an autumn on the farm in Mississippi for the first time in his adult life. The conventional wisdom is that if Favre comes back, the Vikings will make a Super Bowl run. But, without the Williams Wall, those odds would take a hit.

The Williamses have both been Pro Bowlers for a reason. With all the complicated offensive schemes designed to open up and exploit defenses, the basic premise of the game remains the same – run the ball effectively on offense and stop the run on defense. If you do that consistently, you stand a better chance to win consistently. With the Williams Wall in place, over the last three years, nobody has done it like the Vikings.

In 2007, the Vikings finished 8-8, missing the playoffs thanks to a collapse at home against Washington that would have clinched a wild card berth. Their mediocrity wasn't due to the run defense. It was rated No. 1 in yards allowed and No. 2 in average per rushing attempt. The problem was that the Vikings couldn't consistently generate a pass rush and quarterbacks with any acumen (and even some without a lot of street cred) were able to pick them apart – the Vikings had the 32nd-rated pass defense in '07, which was saying something considering there were six teams that lost 12 or more games and one (Miami) that lost 15 times.

In 2008, Jared Allen came to the team and Ray Edwards was given the other full-time starting job and they helped vastly improve the pass rush and the overall defense. The Vikings went from 32nd in the league in pass defense to 18th. It wasn't a meteoric jump, but it was good enough to help the team improve from 8-8 to 10-6. The run defense was still dominant. They again finished first in rush yards allowed and second in average per rush, leading the Vikings to a division title for the first time in eight years and giving hope that bigger things could be on the horizon.

The arrival of Favre kicked expectations up a notch – make that 20 notches. The offense improved exponentially upon his arrival. In the two years previously referenced, the Vikings had started Tarvaris Jackson, Gus Frerotte, Brooks Bollinger and Kelly Holcomb. Favre brought immediate excitement – and more scoring – to the Vikings offense. It put pressure on the defense to keep up and the that side of the ball responded. The numbers slipped slightly – second in the league in rush yards allowed and sixth in average per carry – but the formula remained the same. If you stop them, the wins will come.

Had the NFL been able to impose its four-game suspension on the Williamses – the odds of them getting it reduced by a game or two given the rancor of the court cases is unlikely – it might have been enough to keep Favre on the farm side of the fence. But with them back in the fold for the foreseeable future, things again look bright heading into the season, which could be a contributing factor in Favre making the decision so many fans, coaches and teammates are keeping their fingers crossed that he will make.

MONDAY NOTES

  • Pro Football Weekly said in its "NFC Whispers" column that Visanthe Shiancoe's agent Drew Rosenhaus has been talking with the Vikings about a contract extension. Shank is under contract for two more years and, according to PFW, "we hear" Shiancoe would like to be paid among the top five tight ends in the league – a pretty exclusive neighborhood in the range of $5-7 million a year. Shiancoe switched agents a few months ago to hire Rosenhaus, who has several Vikings clients in his management stable.

  • The NFL's official website has weighed in on the NFC North race and columnist Vic Carucci is predicting hard times for the Vikings and the Saints. He picks both of them (along with Arizona) not to repeat as division champs. He has the Packers beating out the Vikings and Atlanta topping the Saints, leaving the teams from January's NFC Championship Game battling for the two wild card positions.

  • Adrian Peterson hosted a two-day youth football camp in Norman, Okla. that had more than 450 kids taking part in the camp.

  • NFL rookies are spending the next three days at the NFL's annual rookie symposium at the La Costa resort in Carslbad, Calif. The symposium got underway Sunday night with a one-hour speech from Commissioner Roger Goodell. The commissioner told the players that there is responsibility with being an NFL player and personal conduct is important to them – now and throughout their careers. Goodell also addressed the increased measures to address injuries. He tied the two issues together, saying his job was "to protect the integrity of the NFL and to make sure the game is as safe as possible." Only three drafted rookies aren't at the symposium, but one of them (New York Giants safety Chad Jones), couldn't attend after suffering what may be a career-ending injury in a car accident in New Orleans. Goodell spoke with Jones Sunday at the hospital where he is beginning the recovery process.

  • NFL Network will unveil its countdown of the 10 best regular-season games of 2009. They are letting fans pick the order of the top five, two of which are Vikings games. Two of the five nominees fans can vote for are the 27-24 Vikings win over San Francisco and their 36-30 overtime loss at Chicago in Week 16. The other nominees are the Colts 35-34 win over New England in Week 10, the "Game Nobody Ever Saw" – a 38-37 win by Detroit over Cleveland in Week 11 – and the Steelers 37-36 win over Green Bay in Week 15. Considering that four of the top five games all involved the NFC North and all four teams are involved in the voting, perhaps the division will get a little more credit than it has the last couple of years for having some quality teams in it.

  • Former Cowboys chant-icon Darryl "Moose" Johnston did a radio interview in Dallas in which he was asked, "It's late June and assuming Favre is coming back, because he will come back, the two best teams in the NFC right now?" Johnston was short and sweet, saying just "Dallas and Minnesota." When asked why New Orleans wasn't in the mix, Johnston said, "Minnesota is you don't turn the ball over six times, you win that game."


    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.
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