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Tarvaris Jackson or Seneca Wallace?: NFL, Teams Take Your Pick

In all of his back-up wisdom, Minnesota Vikings QB Tarvaris Jackson decided to ask for a trade request. That will probably be the biggest mistake of his NFL career.

He has the chance to learn behind Brett Favre, one of the best to throw on the pads, and grow that way, but he decided he wanted it for himself and he saw he wasn’t going to start with Favre coming in.

Right now Jackson is probably a No. 2 QB, or even a third, depending on the team you put him on. There are many problems that Jackson has in asking for a trade:

1) He’s a horrible QB, and probably should try running back.

2) He’s the No. 2 QB in Minnesota.

Who in their right mind would trade for a No. 2 QB in Minnesota, and would be a No. 3 or No. 4 QB on any other team?

Now, Jackson really hasn’t put it out on the field, but the idea came to me: There is also another undersized QB that is currently a No. 2 QB, and his name is Seneca Wallace.

I thought I would compare the two and see which player people and teams would choose.

Tarvaris Jackson or Seneca Wallace? Let’s take a look at both.

 

Seneca Wallace

Wallace, more than a backup last season, led the Seattle Seahawks to three out of their four wins last season. They almost could have had 5-6 wins if not for the Patriots game and a few others.

Now, since 2007, Wallace has seen a lot of regular season playing time due to Matt “thinning” Hasselbeck.

Wallace played 10 games in each of the last two years, eight games 2006, and seven in 2005.

Last season was by far Wallace’s best season. He threw for 1.532 yards, 11 TD, and only three INT. Wallace was only sacked 14 times, which gives him 34 for his career.

That’s a pretty good season, especially when the QB is 5’11” and can’t even see over the offensive lineman.

 

Tarvaris Jackson

Jackson was in a much different situation than Wallace. Jackson was the starting QB, and then was replaced by Gus Frerotte. Then for the last four games Jackson was the starter and did pretty well.

Now, Jackson is really known more for his legs than his arm, and he’s proved that in recent seasons.

Last season Jackson threw for 1,056 yards, nine TD, and two INT in eight games—not as well as Wallace, but not too bad nonetheless.

The main difference between Wallace and Jackson is that Jackson is 6″2″ and 225 pounds, while Wallace is 5’11” and 205 pounds.

 

So now the decision has to be made. Who would you rather trade for if Seneca Wallace joined Tarvaris Jackson on the trade block?

Wallace or Jackson?

My choice would be Wallace, simply because he can throw and run. Plus, he has a better football IQ than Jackson does, and looks at all the possibilities instead of locking onto one player.

So who would you pick?

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Visanthe Shiancoe Poised for a Big Year

When I asked Minnesota Vikings tight end Visanthe Shiancoe what we are going to see this year that is different from him last year, the sixth-year veteran responded with the words, “Intensity and grind!” The tight end does not lack intensity or grind, he hits the gym regularly and takes care of his body.

We do expect him to emphasize those words even more this season.

Shiancoe had a break out year in 2008, hauling in 42 passes for a career-high 596 yards and a career-high seven touchdowns. With the inevitable signing of quarterback Brett Favre, Shiancoe is poised to have an even bigger season.

The third-year Viking collected career numbers, despite catching from two different quarterbacks. Shiancoe caught passes from quarterback Tarvaris Jackson for the first two games, but had to adjust to quarterback Gus Frerotte when Jackson was benched.

But then the tight end had to adjust back to Jackson when the quarterbacks swapped again in week 14.

The signing of Favre gives the Vikings stability at the quarterback position. Despite having a quarterback that is 39-years old and coming off of surgery, this is the same quarterback that leads the league in consecutive games played. All reports are saying Favre’s shoulder is 100% healed and back to full strength.

When tight end Bubba Franks played with Favre in Green Bay all of those years, the tight end got many looks, even catching a career-high 54 receptions in 2002 from the future hall-of-famer. Just this past season with the Jets, Favre completed 48 passes to rookie tight end Dustin Keller for 535 yards.

At 29, Shiancoe is still young and in his prime. His “intensity” and “grind” is going to make this offense that much better. Luckily, he won’t have to do it on his own. If anything, his teammates will make the passing lanes wider for the tight end.

The addition of receiver Percy Harvin, the continued success of receiver Bernard Berrian, and a healthy receiver Sidney Rice will help spread the field and push defenders back. Oh, not to mention a guy that most defenders will keep an eye on, running back Adrian Peterson.

Throughout Favre’s career, he utilizes his tight ends very well and very often. Keep an eye out for No. 81.

Fantasy Note: Keep an eye on Shiancoe in your draft leagues. He flew under the radar last season and his value is on the rise, especially when the Vikings pair him up with Favre.

Nam Huynh writes for Minnesota Sports Zone (http://www.mn-sz.com)

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Brett Favre Meets with Minnesota Vikings Trainer for Second Time

Let’s be honest. Brett Favre signing with the Vikings is as good as done.

It won’t be huge news. Well, not as big as it might have been had he kept the rumors quiet through all this time, but in recent weeks, despite “thinking” we knew he’d come back, we’ve begun to get concrete information that suggests he will sign sometime this month.

Then again, there’s that report swirling around that he may already be under contract with Minnesota.

In case you’ve been sleeping in a cave, here’s a quick look at what you need to know in regards to The Brett Favre Saga:

* Dr. James Andrews, the guy that performed the surgery on Brett’s arm, says that in conversations with Favre, he found out Favre did indeed want to continue playing, planned on it, and said that the Vikings were his only suitor.

* Andrews then reported that the arm was holding up well and that Favre should make a full recovery.

* A report surfaced a few days ago that Favre and his wife Deanna had placed a $30,000 down payment on a condo in Minnesota, furthering speculation that a contract was either already in line or an announcement would soon be made.

* Eric Sugarman, a Minnesota trainer, made his second trip to Hattiesburg, Mississippi, to meet with Favre and check in on his progress. Favre’s arm is reportedly 100 percent, and all signs point to a “go.”

* The last bit of information is the most interesting: Reports have the Minnesota Vikings designing 40 percent of their plays in their playbook specifically for Favre. Talk about sweetening the deal.

Now, for all those Favre haters, Packers lovers—this includes me—or just regular NFL fans, it’s becoming quite clear that what they feared/hoped for the most is almost certainly about to happen.

Brett Favre is poised to actually don the purple and yellow, and there’s not much we can do about it.

Just sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride.

As I’ve said before in other Favre-related articles, the guy is 40 years old and won’t be around forever. Whether you like it or not, it’s impossible to provide a completely logical argument for him to not return.

When he was healthy last season, he had 20 touchdowns, was leading the Jets past winning clubs, and owned an 8-3 record.

Now that he’s healthy again and supported by a stellar cast, he could easily regain his 2007 form.

That, or he’ll slip up in his own prima donna image and never recover.

Just cherish these moments and these days leading up to his signing.

When it happens, remember it as something glorious:

Brett Favre came back again, despite constant criticism, simply because he wanted to play football, or maybe to spite Ted Thompson. Perhaps it was a bit of both.

At this point, it doesn’t matter anymore. People are going to believe what they want to believe, but regardless of their opinion, one thing is not up for argument.

Favre has made an impact on the league that will last a lifetime, and for years beyond our children’s lifetimes.

Favre still makes the game great and worth watching.

That’s why, despite every tiny tidbit of Favre news being minuscule and sometimes pointless, it’s such a big deal.

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Is Prophecy Near Fulfillment? Brett Favre Very Close to Signing with Vikings

Is the fulfillment of prophecy upon us? It must be because the Brett Favre-Minnesota Vikings saga is reaching the closing moments.

One of the greatest QBs in NFL history—and surely one of the most talked about players in the NFL this offseason—is one flick of the wrist away from becoming a Minnesota Viking.

Over the last two months, Favre had been nursing a bicep injury. Then on June 8, Favre decided to have surgery to fix the torn biceps tendon in his throwing shoulder.

Then, on July 5, Favre wanted to talk things over with highly recommended sports doctor, Dr. James Andrews, who said Favre was doing great.

So much for doctor-patient confidentiality, because after Andrews and Favre met, “the doc” came out with a statement saying that Favre wanted to play for Minnesota, which removed most doubts about Favre’s return.

Now the main question is how much will the Vikings have to pay Favre? Last season, Favre made $12 million—will it cost the same for the Vikings?

My guess is that Favre signs either Friday or over the weekend. I don’t see this playing out much longer now that a Vikings jersey is just a flick of the wrist away from Favre.

Thank god it’s very close to ending because this ordeal has taken four months when it really should have taken four minutes.

Good luck to you in Minnesota, Favre. Now, the NFC North is probably the best QB division with Jay Cutler in Chicago, Aaron Rodgers in GB, Matthew Stafford in Detroit, and now Favre in Minnesota. No defense needed in the North—just QBs.

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What If…Would Brett Favre Improve the Minnesota Vikings?

In the interest of full disclosure, I am a Packers fan—a Packers shareholder, in fact. I don’t like talking about this story, which seems to be equal parts bizarre, “goofy,” pointlessly vindictive, and petty.

As a fan, I’ve moved on. I guess that is what he wants me to do. I try not to think about the situation or “the player.” It’s a story that I personally wish would go away, yet it is more prevalent than any story in sports.

I am also a professional spokesperson for a computer, so it does not matter what I think—just what the computer thinks.

The computer can definitively and without bias answer the question, “What would/will Brett Favre mean to the Minnesota Vikings?”

The answer: not much. The Minnesota Vikings mean a lot more to Brett Favre than Favre means to the Minnesota Vikings.

Using the same technology and approach as our 2009 NFL Preview, we simulated the upcoming season 10,000 times with Brett Favre taking every snap at quarterback for the Minnesota Vikings.

Without Favre, we simulated the 2009 season with Tarvaris Jackson and Sage Rosenfels splitting time equally. Jackson is our projected starter in the playoffs. The Vikings utilize a playbook similar to last season with Jackson under center and the team running the ball about 57 percent of the time.

The Favre-less Vikings win 11.05 games on average to take the NFC North title over the Chicago Bears by 2.86 games. They are favored in 15 out of 16 games, only losing at Arizona by a score of 25-18.

Here is the Favre-less Vikings’ projected schedule:

Week Opponent Win% Avg Score
1 @Cleveland Browns 92 33-18
2 @Detroit Lions 81 28-19
3 San Francisco 49ers 60 25-20
4 Green Bay Packers 76 28-18
5 @St. Louis Rams 84 30-19
6 Baltimore Ravens 76 26-16
7 @Pittsburgh Steelers 55 18-18
8 @Green Bay Packers 70 25-20
10 Detroit Lions 86 31-16
11 Seattle Seahawks 80 26-15
12 Chicago Bears 62 22-17
13 @Arizona Cardinals 33 18-25
14 Cincinnati Bengals 75 26-17
15 @Carolina Panthers 57 23-23
16 @Chicago Bears 65 21-18
17 New York Giants 53 22-20

 

Largely due to their victory over Minnesota, the Cardinals finish ahead of the Vikings to earn the second seed in the NFC playoffs and a first round bye (Philadelphia is the top seed).

In the playoffs, Minnesota must first defeat the Giants at home before playing at Arizona. The Vikings lose to the Cardinals on the road—this time by an average score of 28-21. Minnesota is eighth in our initial 2009 NFL Power Rankings.

With Favre and a more balanced playbook, the Vikings win 11.11 games on average to win the division over the Chicago Bears by 2.84 games (the Bears are a little stronger now than a month ago). They are favored in 15 out of 16 games, only losing at Arizona by a score of 25-19. The Cardinals still finish ahead of the Vikings to earn the second seed in the NFC playoffs and a first round bye.

Here is Vikings’ projected schedule with Brett Favre:

Week Opponent Win% Avg Score
1 @Cleveland Browns 93 33-16
2 @Detroit Lions 80 30-21
3 San Francisco 49ers 60 25-19
4 Green Bay Packers 74 27-18
5 @St. Louis Rams 83 30-19
6 Baltimore Ravens 74 27-20
7 @Pittsburgh Steelers 51 18-18
8 @Green Bay Packers 71 26-21
10 Detroit Lions 87 34-17
11 Seattle Seahawks 82 28-16
12 Chicago Bears 53 25-20
13 @Arizona Cardinals 31 19-25
14 Cincinnati Bengals 80 28-16
15 @Carolina Panthers 63 26-24
16 @Chicago Bears 67 24-23
17 New York Giants 53 24-23

 

Essentially the same postseason result occurs, where the Vikings earn the third spot in the NFC Playoffs, defeat the Giants, and then lose in Arizona. Minnesota does leap over the Saints to place seventh in the NFL Power Rankings with Favre.

Brett Favre is worth 0.05 wins to the Minnesota Vikings. Against some teams, Minnesota improves. Against others—typically those more adept at forcing turnovers—the Vikings are not as successful.

They may be the same in terms of wins and losses, but statistically, these are two different teams. The Favre-less Vikings score 25.3 points per game and allow 18.6. They throw for 2,869 yards, 22 TDs, and 10 interceptions and rush for 2,665 yards and 22 TDs.

With Favre, the Vikings score 26.4 points per game and allow 19.7. Favre throws for 3,460 yards, 26 TDs, and 15 interceptions, while the team rushes for 2,355 yards and 20 TDs.

The strength of this team is in its ability to run and stop the run. Adrian Peterson is approaching the prime of his career and should be a perennial MVP candidate. Chester Taylor and rookie Percy Harvin will also provide explosiveness out of the backfield. The offensive line is among the league’s best.

Throwing more often may score a few extra points, but it is going to hurt a strong, yet thin defense and will lead to more turnovers. Even if the team runs the same amount as our original projection, the Vikings’ turnover rate will still go up due to Favre’s presence.

For Minnesota, according to our simulations, Favre does not appear to be worth it. The team does not need a great quarterback to succeed—and Favre is not a great quarterback any more anyway. Plus, last season, Tarvaris Jackson appeared to turn the corner with regards to decision making and limiting interceptions.

Would it be worth it to Favre to come into Minnesota and win a division over his former Packers? The computer does not know the answer to that question. He would likely get far more credit than he should for the projected one-game improvement over last season and the 0.05 win improvement over the current roster. That may make him happy.

In five years, though (or six, or seven, or 10), when Favre is eligible for the Hall of Fame and makes it in on the first ballot for what could have been the most attended induction ceremony ever, Vikings fans are not going to show. Jets fans are not going to be there either. And there will be far fewer Packers fans in attendance than there would have been.

I know one who won’t make the trip. I’ve moved on.

 

Want to know how the best players of today would do against the greats of all-time? Find out using SimMatchup or build a team of the best ever and compete against others in the SimLeagues.

Paul Bessire is the Product Manager of Content and Quantitative Analysis for WhatIfSports.com, a division of FOX Sports Interactive. With any comments, questions, or topic suggestions, Paul can be reached at BtB@whatifsports.com. Thanks!

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Preseason Picks for NFL All-Pro: NFC, Pt. 2 (Defense and Special Teams)

This a follow-up to “Preseason Picks for NFL All-Pro: NFC, Pt. 1”, which focused on my predictions for the best offensive players in the NFC for 2009. If you have not read my offensive picks yet, here is the link: http://bleacherreport.com/articles/206809-preseason-picks-for-nfl-all-pro-nfc-part-1-offense. With that being said, it should not be a surprise that this slide will honor the top defensive and special teams players in the National Football Conference. It will be of a similar format to its predecessor, one player for every position on a standard defense.

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Report: Brett Favre Puts Deposit on Minnesota Condo

According to a report by Charley Walters of the St. Paul Pioneer Press, retired quarterback Brett Favre and his wife Deanna have put a $30,000 deposit down on a condominium in Edina, Minn., close to the Minnesota Vikings’ team facilities.

It seems we who have been following Favre this offseason get a bit at a time, and this is the latest that makes us believe that we will see the future Hall of Fame quarterback leading the Vikings offense this season.

Vikings single game tickets will go on sale July 20, so if Favre does become a Viking, it would most likely happen before that date, as the team would want to sell those tickets fast.

Bus Cook, Favre’s agent, will likely be busy this week after his former client Steve McNair was tragically killed this past weekend in an apparent homicide that took place in Nashville, Tenn.

So if we rule out this week and anytime after July 20, next week would be the best bet to put your money on an official Favre-to-Vikings announcement.

Stay tuned for the next clue, purple country.

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Why the Vikings Are in Danger of Overworking Adrian Peterson

Several months ago, I wrote an article, “The Workhorse Running Back: A Dying Trend in the NFL.”

 

This piece highlighted the importance of utilizing a two or even three-back system to extend a running back’s career, as the Panthers did with Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams last season, or the Ravens with Willis McGahee, Ray Rice, and LeRon McClain.

 

Memo to the Vikings: Take note of this.

 

Adrian Peterson is good.

 

He’s very good.

 

In fact, he is on pace to be one of the greatest running backs in the history of the National Football League.

 

His first two years were Hall of Fame worthy. He started in the Pro Bowl as a rookie, earned All-Pro honors in both seasons, and finished in the top two in the league in rushing yards both seasons.

 

He’s already drawn comparisons to the great ones—Barry Sanders, Emmitt Smith, and so on. It’s too early to project a whole career for AP, but he looks to have a bright future ahead based on the two seasons we as football fans have seen from him.

 

Only three running backs have every rushed for more yards in their first two seasons than Peterson. Only 12 backs have ever rushed for more touchdowns. And only 11 backs have carried the ball as many times as Peterson.

 

That’s a red flag right there.

 

No. 1 way to ruin a running back’s career: overuse him.

 

Look at Terrell Davis. Earl Campbell. Larry Johnson.

 

These guys were the best of the best, but couldn’t take the pounding from being the feature back—or the only back—for their team. All had prematurely short careers.

 

After averaging 374 touches per year in his first four seasons, Terrell Davis got injured and never again was the full-time starter.

 

Was it worth it to Denver fans?

 

Sure.

 

They got two Super Bowl titles and a Super Bowl MVP performance from Davis. And he was arguably the best running back in the game for about three years.

 

But it would have been nice for Davis to play more than four full seasons in the NFL.

 

Campbell averaged 351 carries per season in each of his first four years in the pros before injuries limited him to just 207 carries per year in his final four seasons.

 

And Larry Johnson averaged 386 carries per season after taking over the starting duties for the Chiefs, including an NFL-record 416 carries in 2006. In the two years since, he has averaged fewer than 200 carries per season, after missing 12 games due to injury.

 

In fact, there have been 26 instances in football history in which a running back has topped 370 carries in a single season.

 

Of those 26 times, the running back has suffered an injury the following season nine times. 35 percent of the time.

 

That’s a pretty big risk to the Vikings.

 

Of the five times a running back has topped 400 carries in a season, two of the five runners have gotten hurt the following season. Those two—Larry Johnson and Jamal Anderson—combined for just 177 carries in their following year.

 

Teams should be wary of giving their star running backs that many carries, especially a team like Minnesota that possesses a talented backup runner—Chester Taylor—capable of filling in as the full-time back.

 

Peterson is a special back—the kind you want to protect. Running backs don’t have long careers, but the Vikings want to be able to still rely on him in five or six years.

 

370 carries doesn’t guarantee an injury. In fact, most of the time the running back DOESN’T get hurt the next year.

 

Eric Dickerson—a physical freak of nature—is the only back in history with four seasons to his resume of 370-plus carries. And he never got hurt in any of the succeeding years.

 

But why take the chance?

 

Even if the back manages to stay healthy, there is a pretty good chance he will see a significant decrease in his yards per carry.

 

Ricky Williams was used 383 times by the Dolphins in 2002, gaining a league-best 1,853 rushing yards on 4.6 yards per carry.

 

The following year, he took the pounding from 392 carries, and didn’t miss a game.

 

But he paid the price. His yards dropped to 1,372 and his yards per carry average dropped over a full yard, down to 3.5 per rush.

 

Same with Eddie George.

 

George carried the rock 403 times for the Titans in 2000, helping the team to the playoffs. He averaged just 3.7 yards per carry, but totaled 1,509 rushing yards and 16 total touchdowns.

 

The next season, George again played all 16 games and carried the ball 315 times. He failed to even top 1,000 yards however, averaging just a paltry 2.96 yards per carry.

 

In his final three seasons, George never again topped 3.4 yards per carry.

 

I have no ties to the Vikings. All they are to me is competition for the NFC title, but I would like to see a fair fight.

 

Ideally, I think Peterson should get 320 carries and 40 receptions, with Taylor handling around 125 carries and 30 receptions.

 

It’s tempting to want to overwork a star. Especially when it gets your team that elusive Super Bowl trophy.

 

And maybe Peterson will turn out to be that once-in-a-lifetime back like Dickerson or Barry Sanders, who just doesn’t get hurt.

 

But I wouldn’t take my chances.

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Main Players In The Favre Saga Operate Under Selfish Motivations

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The Minnesota Vikings have toyed with my emotions for a couple of decades now.  Heart-breaking losses and fan girl scream inducing wins encompass the roller coaster ride I signed up for when I pledged my allegiance to the purple and gold.  The latest episode of As the Aging Quarterback Retires, er Un-retires, is no different.

I overheard some guys on the ‘L’ talking about the Favre situation.  One of the men said Brad Childress is “fearless” for putting his faith in Brett Favre to resurrect Minnesota’s passing game.  At that moment I felt like tapping him on the shoulder to correct him.  “Excuse me, sir.  I believe the word you were looking for was idiotic.  Childress is idiotic for thinking Favre is the solution to his problems.”

Unfortunately, Childress, aka Clueless, has failed to live up to the offensive guru status that was touted three years ago.   And now he’s hell bent on signing Favre in an attempt to salvage anything that might be left of his reputation. 

I haven’t decided who I blame more for Favregeddon.  Childress has his future to think about.  If he has any shot of securing another job after Zygi throws him to the curb, he needs to show that he is capable of constructing a passing game that doesn’t resemble a schizophrenic throwing downfield to a wide receiver that only he can see. 

Favre has his ego to worry about. This is just another act in the long line of Oscar-worthy displays he’s given in the past. Obviously the guy has a few more weepy-eyed performances to give for the camera and his legion of minions at ESPN. Not to mention the temper tantrums for non-existent penalties to throw for the refs. 

 

Is Favre really going to be satisfied after one or two years in Minnesota?  At some point he needs to take a step back to reflect on his past accomplishments, and then accept that maybe it is over.

 

The media has played its own part in stirring the frenzy.  Camping out at Winter Park and the airport in Hattiesburg, Miss. are not the actions of a rational person.  Reporters are jumping at the latest gossip from the mysterious “source” feeding the latest contract status and home purchase all in an effort to boost ratings.  I wouldn’t be surprised if the “source” turns out to be Favre himself, afraid that the spotlight will move onto someone else if he doesn’t fuel the fire.

 

The Vikings’ roster is filled with Super Bowl caliber talent, and yet they never look as good as they do on paper.  The defense and running game have the ability to dominate every opponent, while the offensive line always looks like it could use a little extra practice. 

The quarterback is obviously the main obstacle in the Vikings’ path past the first round of the playoffs.  But I’d rather see them focus on re-signing Antoine Winfield and bringing in players that will still have an impact a few years down the road.  That is if any player other than TO is willing to play in the circus-like atmosphere that’s been created. 

Will adding a 39-year-old quarterback who is past his prime take the team to the next level?  I’m not convinced that Favre is even a short-term solution to their quarterback problem.

Despite the vomit-inducing effect Favre’s face has on my body, I won’t hold it against the rest of the team.  I still plan on being seated (or more likely standing) in section 117 at every game.  I’ll cheer when they do something semi competent, boo when Favre does anything, and cry when they crush my soul by losing a game they entered as 28-point favorites. 

I’m not as pessimistic as my mother likes to think.  To prove it, I now live my life by a new motto that I heard:  May your troubles last as long as Brett Favre’s retirements.

 

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State of the DTs: Cracks in Vikings’ Williams Wall, or Just Minor Issues?

[This article is one of eight in B/R contributor Jack Harver’s “State of the DTs” series, introduced here.]

Albert Haynesworth’s biggest competition for NFC Pro Bowl honors will come from Minnesota defensive tackles Kevin and Pat Williams.

During their past three seasons manning the middle of the Vikings’ defensive line, the Williams duo has been the engine room for the NFL’s stingiest rush defense. Minnesota’s opponents have averaged less than 71 yards per game on the ground during that span, and Kevin and Pat have been fixtures on the NFC’s Pro Bowl roster since .

Kevin, who has 42.5 career sacks in his six pro seasons, is considered the better pass rusher of the two. Pat, who has played at 320 pounds for the Vikings since arriving at 335 pounds from Buffalo in 2005, uses his massive frame to occupy blockers, freeing the Vikings’ linebackers and other down linemen to make plays. He’s deceptively quick, taking on double teams with his fast movements and sheer bulk.

Minnesota had a few scares involving these two cornerstones of their defense toward the end of last year—situations worth watching going into the 2009 season.

After taking the NFC North lead with a Week 13 win against Chicago, both Willams were suspended for testing positive for a banned weight-loss diuretic. Both Kevin and Pat hunkered down against commissioner Roger Goodell in court just like they’d done against opposing running backs, filing an injunction that stalled the suspension and allowed them to play out the season.

Opinions differ on whether the Williamses will win their protracted legal battle with the NFL as they continue to fight tooth and nail to clear their names and play.

The stakes are particularly high for their reputations: if they are eventually suspended, criticism from pundits and sports fans—already disillusioned by the seeming prevalence of performance-enhancing drugs in baseball—would likely be severe.

Point-blank; if Kevin and Pat Williams come out of court with anything short of a complete victory, they’ll likely be tainted in the public eye. Fair or unfair, they’d have long odds to be voted into the Pro Bowl.

On the football field, Kevin shows no signs of slowing down. A Pro Bowler in four of his six NFL seasons, he has missed only two games in his career—a knee sprain sidelined him for Weeks 13 and 14 in 2005—and is coming off his highest one-season sack total (8.5) since exploding onto the big-league scene with 10.5 and 11.5 in his first two seasons.

Pat, on the other hand, seems to have a few chinks in his formidable armor. He missed the Vikings’ last three games this past season after breaking a bone in his shoulder, but the real points of concern are his offseason surgeries. He had work done on his elbow in 2008, and recently underwent a minor procedure on his knee.

Turning 37 this October, the heftier of Minnesota’s two top-caliber tackles is no spring chicken. Joint injuries tend to nag and recur; while Pat’s level of play may not drop, medical problems might keep him out of enough games to miss out on a fourth consecutive Pro Bowl appearance.

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