Fans were rightfully excited when the Vikings drafted three talented players in the first round this March, but so far those guys have gotten only a limited opportunity to realize their great promise. Cordarrelle Patterson has been used mostly as a return weapon, seeing only sporadic action as an actual receiver. Xavier Rhodes has been in on a high percentage of snaps with the Vikings playing a lot of nickel but is still not seeing time in the base defense. And Sharrif Floyd? He has been mostly a non-factor as Kevin Williams continues to get the bulk of the playing time at 3-tech.
Of the three first rounders, Floyd’s lack of action has been the most frustrating. Williams is clearly aging and has been banged up so it would make sense to dial back his snaps and get Floyd in there. The problem is that Floyd himself suffered a knee injury in preseason and was somewhat set back in his development. Technique and recognition issues plagued Floyd in his early games, partially as a result of limited practice time, and that explains to some extent why his snaps were reduced.
But now we’re five games into the season and the Vikings are floundering, and if you ask me Kevin Williams is showing his age more than a little. With the season headed downhill fast and Williams clearly needing a blow now-and-then, it makes perfect sense to take the training wheels off Floyd and let him go out there and learn by doing.
I think Leslie Frazier maybe agrees with me at least a little. The coach seems pleased with Floyd’s recent progress after his early struggles, saying “He’s done a very good job of separating from blocks. He’s doing a lot of things better than he did two to three weeks ago and that’s encouraging because that just means he’ll keep getting better in November, December.” So maybe we’ll actually get to see Floyd apply what he’s learned in practice during honest-to-goodness game action Monday night?
It depends on Frazier. Thing about our head coach is, when the poop hits the proverbial fan, his instinct is to place his trust in the veterans at the expense of rookies. But rookies develop better when their coaches show trust and confidence in them and I think that is an area where Frazier is letting the Vikings down. Always handling these young guys with kid gloves may actually be hurting their growth.
It’s time for Frazier to put aside his natural aversion to trusting rookies and let these guys play. Who cares if Kevin Williams whines about losing playing time to a kid? The coach has to look out for the team’s interests. If Frazier is unwilling to do that, then maybe we need a new coach who understands better how to develop young players, and isn’t such a pushover when veterans get in his face about their snap count.