Vikings finding sacks from part-time sources

Letroy Guion (Brace Hemmelgarn/US Presswire)

Jared Allen only has two sacks and Brian Robison hasn't gotten on the board yet. Still, the Vikings are pressuring the quarterback and others are getting sacks. How is it all coming together? The players and Leslie Frazier discuss.

The NFL's defending sacks champion, Jared Allen, has only two sacks through four games, but his Minnesota Vikings are still tied for seventh in the league with 12 sacks.

The Vikings are finding ways to get pressure on the quarterback whether Allen is "getting home" on his pass rushes or not. Utility defensive lineman Everson Griffen leads the team with three sacks, followed by a foursome of defenders with two apiece – Allen, defensive tackle Letroy Guion and linebackers Chad Greenway and Erin Henderson. Cornerback Chris Cook has one.

That means the defensive line has seven of the 12 sacks even without Brian Robison and Kevin Williams making their mark on that statistic.

"I think if you really go back and look at it, probably between the two of us (Allen and Robison), we've missed about six sacks, just blatantly missed six sacks," Robison said Monday. "So that's something we've got to do – make sure once we get there we do finish and get the guy down. And then on the flip side, we've had some tremendous rushes and quarterbacks just aren't holding onto the ball. It's one of those deals where they get rid of the ball before we get there or we get our hands on them and they get rid of the ball. Now teams are – I guess they're respecting us, which is a good thing. It's always a goal in my mind for teams to respect us."

The Vikings' most impressive game rushing the passer came Sunday. They only sent blitzes two times, according to 1500 ESPN, but still managed five sacks on Detroit QB Matthew Stafford. In his previous three games, Stafford had been sacked a combined four times.

"It was a game-plan decision," Frazier said of the lack of blitzes. "We had some things up for this game just in case, but we really didn't have to go to them. … We were able to not give up the big plays over the top of the defense, so it wasn't necessary."

Two of the Vikings' five sacks came from Griffen, who isn't even a starter, and two from Guion, who just became a full-time starter this year.

"I think having the depth, having those guys inside, has helped us tremendously. It helps us out," Robison said. "Me and Jared, we haven't had the greatest years so far. He's got two (sacks); I don't have any right now. It's one of those deals that they help us out and they kind of relieve the pressure off of us."
While Allen played 94 percent of the defensive snaps Sunday and Robison was in for 90 percent –typical numbers for them this season – Griffen played in only 50 percent of the snaps. Still, that was more than Guion, the starter, who played in 35 percent.

Frazier said the difference with Guion this season is his approach. He is more dedicated after receiving a three-year, $9 million deal in the offseason when the Vikings targeted him as the replacement for failed one-year acquisition Remi Ayodele.

"He's become so much more professional about his work and his approach to work. We talked a lot during the offseason. He really worked to show his teammates, along with our staff, that he was taking his job more serious," Frazier said. "He was awarded a contract in the offseason. He was very grateful for that. I expressed to him the way to show your gratitude is to be a pro about your business, about what you have to do on the football field. He's spent a lot more time in the classroom studying and preparing for opponents. It's showing up on the field.

"He's playing exceptionally well for us, but he's taken his game to another level as far as his preparation. He's had the physical tools, but now he's becoming a student of the game."
Griffen has one more season remaining on his rookie four-year, $2.425 million rookie deal as a fourth-rounder in 2010.

After an offseason experiment with moving him to linebacker was aborted, Griffen has been used at defensive tackle and end, and occasionally drops into coverage. Mostly, he has become an effective situational pass rusher, but Frazier said there is more to it than that.

"He's grown as a player, becoming much more physical in the run game. Not just a guy you count on in third-down situations," Frazier said. "We even got him in there on early-down situations yesterday and he made some plays against the run. … He's very, very valuable to us."

Eventually, the Vikings' top two sack producers of last season – Allen with 22 and Robison with eight – figure to start turning those missed opportunities in the first quarter of the season into sacks, but so far it's been a combination of rotational defensive linemen and starting linebackers doing most of the damage to opposing quarterbacks.


Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.


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