It's no secret that the Minnesota Vikings defensive line was old and needed new blood. Nowhere was that more apparent than on the interior of the defensive line, as the Vikings defensive tackles have been largely ineffective for the better part of three years.
Gone is long time starter and fan favorite Kevin Williams, who has anchored the d-line for 11 years in Minnesota. The departure of Williams brings to a close the end of the 'Williams Wall' era, which was the phrase that was coined while Pat and Kevin Williams formed one of the best DT combos in the NFL.
But that era is dead and gone, and the Vikings, with a new coach who is considered a defensive genius, will embark on a new look, attacking scheme. To find players that fit that scheme, Mike Zimmer has a new cast off characters on the interior line. Who will be the guys that make it out of Mankato?
Linval Joseph: Joseph was the biggest free agent signing for the Vikings this past off-season, both literally and figuratively. Minnesota has desperately needed a Pat Williams replacement, and they got him in Joseph. At 323 pounds, he has the versatility to play either the NT (0 technique) if the Vikings employ any 3-4 looks, or the more traditional 3 technique in a 4-3 defensive set. He's one of the better run stoppers in the NFL according to PFF, and his addition in the middle is going to help the Vikings improve against the run.
Shariff Floyd: After an up and down rookie season, Floyd is a guy that's been praised by the new coach, and it seems that the new defensive scheme is more suited to his style of play. Some fans are already down on Floyd, and the word 'bust' is being whispered on some blog comment sections, but it's far too early to say that. When you consider the ineptitude of the last staff and the roster mismanagement, Floyd seems to be a prime example of that. I'm looking forward to what he can do in the new defense, and paired with Joseph, the Vikings have gone from one of the oldest to one of the youngest DT combos in the NFL.
Fred Evans: Evans is the only returning defensive tackle from the last three seasons that's seen any substantial playing time. You could argue that's not necessarily a good thing, seeing as how poorly the defensive line play has been, but Evans has been a decent to pretty good run stopper in the middle. You'd like to think that as a rotational guy, he'll continue to do that, and give the Vikings some added depth in the middle.
Tom Johnson: One guy that's solidly in the mix for a job is the former New Orl[EFF THOSE GUYS]aints backup. In three seasons with them, he's played in 40 of 48 games, and has registered five sacks. He signed a one year deal that's worth up to $1.4 million, depending on the incentives he meets, has experience in both the 4-3 and 3-4 sets, but looks to be the top candidate for the primary 3 technique backup spot.
Chase Baker: Baker is probably the only other name you might recognize in the litany of names on the Vikings roster at the DT position. He's only played in five games over 2 seasons, all of his game action coming last year. In his limited action, he's been a serviceable rotation guy, and you would think that he might have a leg up on what would probably be the fourth of four DT spots the Vikings would carry on their 53 man roster. But with the Zimmer mantra that every job is up for grabs, Baker's got some serious competition, and he's going to definitely have to earn it.
Kheeston Randall/Shamar Stephen/Isame Faciane: Randall signed a futures/reserve contract at the end of last year, while Stephen was a seventh-round draft choice and Faciane is a UDFA. If there's a spot on the roster where one of these guys could make a move, it's here. Outside of Floyd and Joseph, and maybe Johnson, you can't really say anyone has a lock on one of the roster spots, and a good training camp and pre-season by one or more of these guys could very easily result in them making the leap on to the roster, or the practice squad.