Aug 16, 2013; Orchard Park, NY, USA; Minnesota Vikings defensive end Jared Allen (69) before the game against the Buffalo Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

Jared Allen and Kevin Williams Need Their Snap Counts Reduced, Whether They Like it Or Not

The defensive line is supposed to be the heart and soul and strength of the Vikings’ defense, but so far this season it has underperformed. Outside of the Pittsburgh game when the Vikes brought relentless pressure against Ben Roethlisberger, we just haven’t seen the dominance we were led to expect (and frankly should expect given how much of the team’s cap space is being eaten up by the unit in question).

What exactly is the issue with the Vikings’ supposedly top-of-the-line front-4? Why can’t they consistently get to the quarterback? Why does it seem that teams can now run on the Vikings with impunity? It’s not all on the D-line of course – part of the problem with the run game is lack of gap-control and that’s on the linebackers and corners and safeties as much as the front-4 – but it’s obvious that the Vikings are not controlling the line of scrimmage the way they would like.

To me, you have to begin by looking at the players and the way they are being used. We know there is plenty of talent up there, Pro Bowl talent at some positions, but is that talent being maximized?

I go back to the preseason and the comments of DC Alan Williams, who said he wanted to use more of a rotation along the defensive line, rather than lean on certain veteran players. Of course Williams said the same thing last year and when the games actually happened, the rotational approach never materialized. The vets – Jared Allen, Kevin Williams and Brian Robison – got the bulk of the action, while guys like Everson Griffen and Christian Ballard were used only situationally.

Well guess what? Alan Williams is being made a liar of for the second straight season. Once again, the big “hockey line” rotation plan along the defensive line is not materializing. The vets are getting the bulk of the snaps, with Everson Griffen being used mostly in pass-rush situations, often at defensive tackle, and rookie first rounder Sharrif Floyd barely being used at all.

Just look at Kevin Williams’ snap count thus far. Before the season, Leslie Frazier said he wanted to limit the fast-fading 33-year-old former All-Pro to around 35 snaps per game, and get Floyd plenty of action. But through the first five games of the season, Williams is averaging over 50 snaps per game, and Floyd is mostly sitting on the bench. And it’s not like the Vikings are mixing Floyd in more as the season progresses. Per Andrew Krammer of, Floyd was on the field for only 19 snaps against the Panthers, a season-low.

We can only wonder why Sharrif Floyd isn’t seeing more time on the field. Is he just “not ready” in the eyes of Leslie Frazier and Alan Williams, or is there a more complicated dynamic going on here? Could this be a case of Kevin Williams getting in the ear of Leslie Frazier and talking the coach into leaving him on the field despite the presence of Floyd? Or is Frazier simply a guy who for some deep philosophical reason can’t stand letting a rookie play when he has what he views as a still-capable veteran ahead of him on the depth chart?

We’ve seen this before with Frazier, this unwillingness to sit a veteran and let a younger guy get playing time. In 2011 Frazier clung to Cedric Griffin long after Griffin had convinced everyone else that he was no longer physically or mentally capable of holding down his position, even though the Vikings had a young draft pick in Brandon Burton who they should’ve been looking at in a season that went down the tubes pretty early on. We saw another example last year when painfully slow Michael Jenkins consistently saw an inordinate amount of playing time while speedster rookie Jarius Wright sat and watched.

You could argue that Frazier was equally stubborn in his insistence on acquiring a veteran QB to start in 2011, allowing Christian Ponder to “sit and learn.” That stubbornness resulted in the debacle of Donovan McNabb, a debacle that may have ultimately hindered Ponder’s progress.

But nowhere has Frazier’s aversion to sitting veterans shown up more than in the defensive line dynamic. Jared Allen and Kevin Williams are aging, but Frazier refuses to reduce their playing time even though Rick Spielman keeps giving him other talented players to mix in.

Everson Griffen could see more time in place of Allen, sparing the veteran some wear-and-tear, but if Griffen does get on the field it’s almost always at left end in place of the younger Brian Robison or inside in clear passing situations. And Floyd was drafted specifically to take Williams’ place, yet can’t get on the field to save his life.

Again, is Frazier simply incapable of making the tough choice to reduce a veteran’s playing time, or is he a pushover who gives in when veterans complain about their snaps, or is it a combination of both?

I can see where Frazier might feel a little embattled if Allen and Williams ganged up on him and insisted on being left in the game despite Alan Williams’ desire for a rotation. And Frazier himself might feel that, in the heat of battle, he’d rather have his experienced warriors on the field.

But that’s an attitude that I think might be hindering not only the progress of younger players but the performance of the team. Do you really maximize high-mileage players like Jared and K-Will by letting them play practically the whole game? Or are you actually doing them and yourself a disservice? Players play and coaches coach, and sometimes coaches have to make hard decisions about older guys they like and respect. Sometimes it seems that Frazier is simply unwilling to make those decisions, which ends up hurting him and the team.

Want a sobering example of the potential negative effect of Frazier’s unwillingness to face reality with his veteran players? Look no further than Jared Allen’s performance thus far in 2013. Allen all-but-disappeared in the Panthers game, getting mostly neutralized as a pass rusher and being frankly manhandled against the run. PFF gave Allen a -4.9 grade for that game, his third-worst grade in the past five years. And his worst grade in those five years? A few weeks ago against Cleveland.

I don’t know what’s wrong with Jared Allen, but maybe the problem is that he’s getting old and he’s played too many downs in recent years, and it’s time to start giving him some rest during the game? There’s no excuse for not giving him more time on the bench when you have a guy like Everson Griffen who very well might end up being your starting right end next season after Allen likely walks.

There is every reason in the world for Leslie Frazier to have the talk with Jared Allen where he finally explains what the deal is: that Jared is old and wearing out and probably won’t be here next year anyway, so he needs to sit more and the hell with Jared’s concerns about racking up stats to help him score one last big contract. Jared’s contract isn’t Leslie’s concern; Leslie’s concern is winning games and keeping his own job.

And if Jared doesn’t like that talk? That’s tough. As I said before, players play and coaches coach. Leslie Frazier is officially on the hot seat and one of the reasons he’s there, at least it seems to me, is that he lets the veterans push him around too much. Both Kevin Williams and Jared Allen need to see their snaps reduced, so Sharrif Floyd and Everson Griffen can gain experience at those positions. And, just maybe, having the younger, fresher guys in the game might actually help the defensive line perform better in the short term? It’s not an outlandish notion.

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Tags: Minnesota Vikings

  • Daniel Laxen

    The more of your crap I read the more I realize that you really have no clue! Everson Griffen is doing little when he gets the chance to play. Perhaps the reason he got the game winning sack is because he was fresh when it mattered the most? If you really believe that these coaches are playing the wrong players how did they get their jobs? Every one of these guys put their time in and were well respected coordinators. Sometimes that’s where they belong, as coordinators. They certainly didn’t lose all the knowledge they acquired just by coaching for the Vikings!

    Frazier, for all the world, hasn’t impressed as a head coach. Looking back on some of the decisions, like with Cedric Griffin, was he wrong? Have you seen Burton play? Was he the best option at that time? I doubt it. Griffin played last year for the Redskins and played pretty well, until he was injured. Burton, is in Buffalo in a back up role…If players can’t be in position on defense they should be out of the game in your mind, but just maybe the back ups are worse than the ones already playing. That’s about what I see. Don’t through out Marcus Sherels. There’s a reason that a team throws at you nearly 20 times. It’s because they have seen how bad you can be! He had a decent showing a few games back, but he isn’t consistent…

    Oh, and what was he supposed to do with McNabb, start Ponder? You have seen him play right? No excuses there, buddy! He’s flat out awful…McNabb staked the team to a lead at the half the 1st 4 games. When both sides of the ball failed after injuries decimated the, already thin, depth on that squad. It’s happening again this season. If you recall the Vikings were tied for the league lead in sacks that year and the back end couldn’t cover…This year double teams on Allen are often happening. The answer you are looking for is on the O-line and Kalil playing worse than he ever did last season. Blitz packages are not allowing for time in the pocket, but Cassel is completing passes at near a 68% rate unlike your guy Ponder. Pocket presence is what you call that and Ponder just doesn’t have it. The shit you peddle is real weak!

    • Sean Smith

      I think you are in denial. He doesn’t have to sugar coat everything so your feelings arent hurt if you want that go to the vikings website and they will downplay everything for you with few exceptions this coaching staff aren’t cut for the job also how is musgrave respected? he is horrible these people SHOULDNT have these jobs.

      • Daniel Laxen

        Everyone raved last year when Musgrave trimmed the playbook and hammered AP to the playoffs…Now because Ponder couldn’t execute, AGAIN, they still don’t run more plays. Cassel comes in and is hitting on 68% of his passes and is 1 and 1…The o-line is the biggest problem right now, on offense. Both picks were because Cassel couldn’t fire the pass as intended because of pressure up the middle. Watch both of them! Pressure in his face forces him to loft that pass. Still not like the shit Ponder throws!

        Defensively the Vikings are playing what was supposed to be depth players, not starters. When a team is thin, like the Vikings are, the next man up theory doesn’t work all too well. When a cover 2 team doesn’t get pressure QBs will eat them up in the creases…I’m not in denial about the coaching staff. Frazier is horrible, but look at what the Vikings are supposed to be. A running team. That controls the ball, and a defense that is supposed to use a long field to allow the opponents to make mistakes…The personnel aren’t making plays. Kalil has been horrible this year and the pressure has gotten home. On defense the pressure isn’t there and the secondary is wretched…

        The bottom line? The Vikings aren’t winning the 1 score games this year like last year. That’s execution! It isn’t rocket science boys! (the Panther game not withstanding)

        • Bob E.

          Sorry Daniel, I have to disagree… It’s obvious that we were not at all mentally or strategically prepared for Carolina, That blame falls squarely on the coaches… we have the most powerful running back the game has seen in years and the most clever play we run is a draw? even when we found success last year people who know football were criticizing Musgrave for is vanilla strategies. I cant however explain Williams… we looked outright solid several games last year on defense. With the depth we have on our D line I truly agree that we could benefit from a pitch count for Allen and Williams… in the 4th when the opposing Offensive line is tired, Allen and Williams technique will school the young guys with a strong set of legs still under them.

          • Daniel Laxen

            Yeah, pretty pitiful effort coming off the bye, for sure…If you look at the time of possession you’ll see what really hurts this team. The Panthers had the ball for 10 minutes more than the Vikings too. When a thin defense is stretched even thinner by being on the field too long it’s recipe for disaster. That happened in the Pittsburgh game too and somehow the Vikings stopped them at the end. I was sure they’d throw to the TE like the prior 2 weeks. There was another game this season where the Vikings were on the short side of the ToP, but it escapes me which one?…

            This is football and I’m not sure what you want the Vikings to do to open up the offense. There are things that worked for this team since AP got there. What has been missing is the deep ball. In 2011 and 12 lack of a receiving corps was the problem. This year not so much. It’s been a lack of getting it down field. Ponder couldn’t and Cassel wasn’t accurate enough in that area. Perhaps freeman can be? Should this happen the defense could become an oh by the way, they suck, but the offense can carry the day anyway…

            The O-line has to play better 1st and foremost and then the whole package may just materialize…Last year what Musgrave did was considered genius. He and AP got the team to the playoffs with literally NO passing game. The O-line really did a great job down the stretch. In the playoffs you really saw how outmatched a team that is 1 dimensional is on the big stage…

            Remember the Colts won a Super Bowl that had, arguably, the worst in the league. It’s a far cry from when I grew up watching the Vikings…

          • Daniel Laxen

            Wasn’t Frazier the D-Coach on that team?

          • Bob E.

            We all long for the return of a D-Line that leaves quarterbacks considering suicide as a quicker means than actually playing us lol… I’m just shocked at our run defense… I would argue that Guion is no Pat Williams as an anchor but, thats probably just may be one of the bigger of several reasons.

  • Jim Smith

    Zinski Schminski; get a day job because your analysis sucks. There is nothing wrong with Jared Allen’s play. His motor is non-stop. If anything the entire Vikings organization should bend down and kiss his ass and apologize for the horrible play and coaching that is wasting his career!