Nobody on the Vikings wants to come right out and say it, but the reality with former Pro Bowler Kevin Williams is that he is gradually being phased out. This should have been obvious when the Vikings used a first round pick on Florida defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd. But in case that move didn’t convince you, just listen to what coach Leslie Frazier is saying about Williams’ playing time for the upcoming season.
Frazier was asked about Williams’ role with the Vikings and the coach was about as blunt as he ever gets. Frazier said he expects the veteran DT to get “30-35 good snaps per game.” As Andrew Krammer of 1500 ESPN points out, Williams averaged 50 snaps per game in 2012. It doesn’t take a math wizard to work that one out. From an average of 50 down to 30 or 35? That makes Williams officially a rotational player. A downgrade from his previous status as a top-of-the-line starting NFL interior lineman.
Like I said, this downgrade should come as no surprise. Sharrif Floyd was not drafted to sit on the sidelines and watch Kevin Williams play. The Vikings want Floyd to get in there as much as possible as soon as possible. It all comes down to how fast Floyd is able to learn. If he picks things up quickly, expect him to be in there for at least 50% of the defensive plays if not more. By the end of the season, I would expect that Floyd will be seeing the bulk of the snaps, with Williams reduced to more-or-less of a backup role.
How will this new role sit with the veteran Williams? I don’t see how it matters. When the season ends and Williams’ contract is up, he will have to figure out what to do next. Maybe he will decide that he should go somewhere else and try to score a starting job. Or maybe he will elect to stay with Minnesota and be a backup/mentor. Either way, Williams is not the future. Sharrif Floyd is the future.
I surely wouldn’t expect anyone on the Vikings to flat-out characterize Williams as a lame-duck starter. They don’t do business that way and I accept that. But reality is still reality. Kevin Williams is being phased out and Sharrif Floyd is being phased in. Williams is finished as a full-time starter in the NFL, whether the Vikings want to acknowledge that fact or not.
The question now is simple: Can Sharrif Floyd step into Williams’ shoes and continue the Vikings’ legacy of dominating interior linemen? He has the talent to do it. Whether he lives up to all that promise remains to be seen.