Welcome to Sunday, ladies and gentlemen, and the conclusion of a Viking-free weekend on the ol' television set. I decided against doing an open thread for today because. . .well, the Vikings already know who they're playing next weekend, so who cares what happens today?
Now, we have the thrilling conclusion to what I started yesterday with the Minnesota Vikings All-Decade defense. A lot of the names are going to be from recent times because. . .well, come on. Do you remember how terrible our defense was from 2000 to 2005 or so? Because if you don't, don't bother looking it up. Unless you think you can handle the pain and trauma it would potentially cause you, I mean.
So, here we go!
Right Defensive End - Jared Allen. Pretty easy and obvious choice here. After all, all he's done in the 32 games he's been a Viking is rack up 29 sacks (14.5 in each season), eight forced fumbles, and been the genesis for the Vikings' defense going from a good one to a great one. People were worried about his character when he got to Minnesota, and for legitimate reasons, but he's been nothing but a model citizen since getting to the Twin Cities, and there's no reason to think he won't continue to be such in the future.
Defensive Tackle - Kevin Williams. Hey, remember when the Vikings "missed" their pick in the 2003 NFL draft and wound up losing out on such can't-miss future superstars as Byron Leftwich and Jordan Gross, only to get stuck with this guy? ESPN certainly remembers, since they play the damn clip of the whole thing on draft day every year. . .well, the whole thing up until the Vikings actually made their selection, at which point ESPN fails to mention who the pick turned into. (Be sure to watch the draft on the NFL Network instead, please.) Over the course of his seven seasons as a Viking, he's registered 48.5 sacks, defended 40 passes, and even has two interception returns for touchdowns (both of which came in 2007). Oh, and he might be the best all-around defensive tackle in the NFL. Not bad for a guy the Vikings got "stuck with."Defensive Tackle - Pat Williams. The Vikings have made a lot of good free agent signings over the course of the decade, and you could easily argue that Phat Pat was the best. In the five seasons since #94 came over from the Buffalo Bills to team up with Kevin Williams in the middle of the Minnesota defense, the Vikings have been first or second in the NFL against the run four times. Listed at 317 pounds. . .and if you believe that, I have a beachfront house in Kansas you might be interested in. . .he has dominated opposing linemen with a combination of speed and quickness matched by few defensive tackles in the NFL.
Left Defensive End - Kenechi Udeze. Though his battle with leukemia cut short what had been a pretty promising career, he was still the best the Vikings had to offer at the left defensive end position over the course of the past decade. Drafted out of Southern Cal as a pass rusher, Udeze's calling card in the NFL eventually turned out to be his run defense, as he teamed with Pat and Kevin Williams to make the Vikings' front four almost impenetrable to opposing running backs. Yes, he had a season where he started every game and didn't register a sack, but really. . .who cares? It's just a shame he couldn't make it all the way back from his illness. . .I'd love to see what he could do across from Jared Allen.
Weak Side Linebacker - Chad Greenway. Even after missing his entire rookie year after blowing out his knee in the 2006 pre-season opener, Greenway has put together a very nice career for the Vikings thus far. His coverage has gotten better as he's been in the system longer, and he's one of those guys that just always seems to be around the football all the time, as evidenced by his five career interceptions (one for a touchdown) and myriad fumble recoveries over his three full seasons in Minnesota. He has quickly developed into one of the NFL's premier outside linebackers.
Middle Linebacker - E.J. Henderson. After bouncing around the lineup for a bit after being drafted and having to wait his turn to get to the middle, Henderson has flourished. . .when he's been healthy. Unfortunately, injuries have derailed his last two seasons, and have even put his career in serious doubt. He's always been a monster against the run, however, and one of the more solid tacklers on the Vikings' defense, which is what you want from your middle linebacker. Hopefully he'll be able to overcome his most recent setback.
Strong Side Linebacker - Ben Leber. Anyone that's followed the site for a while knows I'm a pretty big Ben Leber fan. You don't hear his name much, but the guy always seems to be doing his job. The fact that the three linebackers on this All-Decade team are our three current starting linebackers (when healthy) just shows how big a clusterfudge our linebacking corps was for most of the decade. (Keith Newman, Greg Biekert, and Raonall Smith, anyone?)
Cornerback - Antoine Winfield. Remember earlier how I said that Pat Williams was arguably the best free agent signing the Vikings have made this decade? Well, here's the one guy you could argue against it, in my opinion. I remember being at Rhein Main AB in Germany in February of 2004, right after the disaster in Arizona, refreshing ESPN.com every five minutes as the drama unfolded between the Vikings and Jets to see who would get Winfield's services. But since he got to Minnesota, Antoine Winfield has been a top-notch cornerback. His coverage has always been pretty good, but where he's really made an impact is in run support, where he's always coming up and making plays.
Strong Safety - Corey Chavous. Originally signed by the Vikings as a cornerback, where he had marginal success, Mike Tice moved him to the safety position, where he absolutely flourished. How good was he at safety? He was so good at safety that he even made Brian Russell look like a legitimate NFL safety for a couple of seasons. That's not just good, that's God-like. Could possibly be the most cerebral player the Vikings have had over this decade, as his sheer wealth of football knowledge is unmatched. . .if you've ever seen him on the draft coverage on the NFL Network, you know that's not an exaggeration. Oh, and he was a pretty good football player, too. That always helps.
Free Safety - Darren Sharper. Just another guy that was too old and too washed-up to get it done for that team from the other side of the river (see also: Favre, Brett and Longwell, Ryan). In his four seasons in Minnesota, Sharper found himself in the Pro Bowl three different times, and his flair for the big play was never greater than it was in Minnesota. He was a pretty complete defender during the time he was here, too. . .you know, considering that the only thing anyone said about him prior to him actually taking the field for Minnesota was that he couldn't get it done any more.
Cornerback - Brian Williams. This spot was a tough one, as I thought about both Williams and Cedric Griffin. But Williams barely gets the nod here because I think he was a bit more consistent than Griffin has been over the past couple years. Williams, a fourth-round pick out of North Carolina State in 2002, Williams eventually fought his way into a starting role and provided solid defense for a secondary that, in general, had a significant lack of talent for most of the time he was here.
And that's the All-Decade defense, folks! Any thoughts, disagreements, or anything else can be added in the comments section. Enjoy the rest of your football Sunday, and stay tuned this week for a lot of talk about Cowboys/Vikings.