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Defensive front gives Vikings edge again

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Posted Oct. 05, 2012 @ 2:54 p.m. ET
By Eric Edholm

It’s not quite the Williams Wall of yore, but the Vikings’ defensive line is an improved group that has helped the overall defensive performance significantly. Last season, the Vikings amassed an impressive 50 sacks — tied for the NFL lead. But that was by far the best aspect of what was an uneven group.

This season, the pass rush has been good (12 sacks, almost on pace with last year’s numbers), but the overall performance has been even better. The reasons can be traced to the depth up front. No longer do the Vikings have to lean on DE Jared Allen and DT Kevin Williams to play every single snap and be at their absolute finest.

Both players have had good starts to the season, but Allen has missed a handful of snaps in every game, which used to be unusual, and the team is not lost without him. And Williams’ workload has decreased by 10-12 snaps per game, and it has improved his and the entire line’s overall effectiveness. Williams, 32, is once again drawing double-teams a year after seeing his game diminish somewhat, and he’s opening things up for others to make plays.

The Vikings can afford to take Williams off the field because they have players who can step in for him and play at a high level. Do-it-all defender Everson Griffen can sub in at end for either Allen or DE Brian Robison, whose motor runs hot but can burn out at times, or Griffen can play inside as a pass rusher. His snap total has consistently been in the 30-40 range each game, typically playing about half the defensive reps.

Other notable contributions have come from NT Letroy Guion, whose play has improved significantly in a starting role, and even DT Christian Ballard, who has shown he can supply some pressure after being somewhat of a disappointment.

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