New Vikings Defensive Coordinator Alan Williams.
Alan Williams was a longtime assistant in Indianapolis under Tony Dungy, so the Vikings base Tampa 2 style defense is nothing new to him. While he definitely isn't trying to reinvent the wheel in Minnesota, Williams wants to tailor his defense to the strengths of his personnel. After Tuesday morning's practice session, he took the podium with the media (yep, that still includes Daily Norseman, and that's still awesome) and addressed some questions about his players and philosophy.
Williams explained that the new playbook isn't being introduced all at once. "We're taking it fairly slow. We want to make sure that we install [the playbook] slowly so that guys get it. We want to go piece by piece, be detailed about what we do." He estimates they're only about 20% in so far and most of it has been very specific and situational.
Being a Dungy descendant, Williams says that the coach has molded his philosophies and schemes "a great deal" but he doesn't talk to him much these days. He explained that Dungy is a great resource, but "now if I have a question I'll go to coach Frazier. He's a great resource. He knows the guys, our personnel, what we're doing. He's my sounding board if I have a question."
Read on for much more after the jump.
Antoine Winfield is the oldest player on the current Vikings roster, but Williams believes that the veteran cornerback sure isn't playing like it. "I don't know if he's aware of that. I look at yesterday's practice and there's nothing that says that he's slowing down or wearing out." That said, Williams is aware that Winfield isn't a young buck and plans to monitor how many snaps he gets. "We realize that there are only so many reps that a body has, so we want to be smart about how we use him and how we play him. Some of that's going to be determined by how fast some of our younger guys come up to speed. We do know that he's going to be on a 'pitch count'. What that pitch count is, I don't know yet."
Williams is also encouraged by how Jasper Brinkley has looked in training camp thus far after missing last year with an injury. "I heard one of the guys saying 'You look like your rookie season', which means he's a better version of himself, slimmed down. He's making great calls and he looks like he hasn't been away from it. I realize that it's still only Day 3 so I'm going to hold judgement until we've had some more padded practices under our belt."
Realizing that it's still very early in camp was an overlying theme of many of Williams' responses. When asked about the safety position (currently Jamarca Sanford and Mistral Raymond are getting first team reps and rookie Harrison Smith is with the second team), he acknowledged that younger players have to prove themselves. "With younger players, especially rookies, I like to have them earn their spot. Even though Harrison and some of the other guys are doing well, it's important that the decision is made based on what we see on tape. When we feel like guys have earned their spot, then we'll make a change, and really that goes for everybody on the football team. We're going to play the best guys no matter what."
Williams would like guys on his secondary to be interchangeable as it pertains to the safety position and outside/nickel corners, but he also realizes he needs to put players where they play best. "That's what makes a defense run well, when you let guys play to their strengths."
While Harrison Smith might not be running with the 1's just yet, Williams is still impressed with his play. Williams likes how well Smith moves for a taller safety and how he excels at pass coverage against tight ends. He told us how they liked Smith from the onset at the Senior Bowl in Alabama. "We were surprised at how well he moved. Everything you read about being smart, being a playmaker, moving to the ball well, they're all true. We just want to see how high he can rise and how quickly."
He's also pleased with CB Chris Cook. "He looks outstanding. Quick, intelligent, he plays like a vet, he's in shape, and he plays multiple positions. We're glad to have him here."
The line of the day from Williams came when he was asked about how he would rotate his defensive linemen in. "This is Minnesota, so we need a hockey lineup," Williams joked. "We need eight guys to come in and play well. We'll have guys that are rotating and we expect, whatever that rotation is, for guys to play winning football...keep 'em fresh, keep 'em running, so at the end of the game when the game, we gotta close it out." He also thinks new defensive starter Letroy Guion should have no problem anchoring the interior line.
Williams is also pleased with his depth at linebacker, especially with his younger players. "Marvin Mitchell has been outstanding, he can play every position across the board. A guy who I've heard was lights out last year, Larry Dean, has played extremely well. We feel good about it, but realize it's still day three." He also joked about how this group of linebackers is bigger than anything he ever had with the notoriously small Indianapolis lineups. He even dropped one of my favorite clichés, "deceptively fast", about rookie Audie Cole. "He's long, he's rangy, he's smart, he's physical. [Size] is a good problem to have."