Another in a series of posts circling back on the 2012 season and some of our preseason themes:
A minor hubbub ignited last summer in the Minnesota Vikings' training camp when new defensive coordinator Alan Williams suggested that it might help to reduce the snaps of defensive end Jared Allen, who was the only defensive end in the NFL to play more than 1,000 snaps in 2011.
I was on board with the suggestion, as long as the Vikings could find a suitable No. 3 defensive end to credibly give both Allen and fellow starter Brian Robison more breathers. Allen told reporters that he wanted to maintain his regular pace, and in the end, he did. In fact, as the chart shows, he played at an almost identical rate in 2012 and once again had the highest playing time percentage of any defensive end in the league.
Playing through several injuries, including a torn labrum that required postseason surgery, Allen actually played more snaps (1,035) than he did in 2011. His percentage was down slightly, from 94.3 to 92.6, because the Vikings had more team defensive snaps.
The only noticeable change came in the uptick in playing time for backup Everson Griffen, due in part to a shoulder injury that cost Robison one game. Griffen played on more than half of the Vikings' snaps as either a tackle or end, and he actually played more frequently than starting nose tackle Letroy Guion.
As we noted Monday, the Vikings were in their nickel defense more than all but six NFL teams. But Griffen's late season emergence -- he had five sacks over the final five games, including the playoffs -- gives us pause as we look ahead to 2013.
Allen turns 31 in April and admittedly had more injuries last season than in any year of his career. Perhaps 2013 will be the year the Vikings get Allen under 1,000 snaps -- for his own good. Griffen's presence and production makes that a more reasonable task than ever before.