NFC North: Sharrif Floyd

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- The Minnesota Vikings were without linebacker Chad Greenway -- because of a broken hand and a rib injury -- at practice on Wednesday, as well as right tackle Phil Loadholt (ankle) and defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd (shoulder).

Tight end Kyle Rudolph and cornerback Xavier Rhodes joined those three players on a list of Vikings starters who missed practice time on Wednesday. Rudolph was limited with an abdominal injury, which showed up on the Vikings' injury report for the first time, while Rhodes was limited because of the groin injury he played with last Sunday. Coach Mike Zimmer said Rhodes will be "fine" to play on Sunday, after he played last week's game against the New England Patriots.

Linebacker Brandon Watts, who missed the Vikings' first two games with a knee injury, also practiced in a limited capacity for the first time this season. Wide receiver Rodney Smith (hamstring) was limited, and linebacker Michael Mauti (foot) was a full participant.
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Coach Mike Zimmer continued to sound optimistic on Friday that cornerback Xavier Rhodes and defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd -- who both did some work in practice on Friday -- would be able to play for the Minnesota Vikings in their home opener on Sunday against the New England Patriots.

Rhodes
Floyd
Rhodes was officially listed as questionable with a groin injury, as Floyd was with a shoulder injury, but Zimmer said there is a "good chance" Rhodes will play, and added Floyd is feeling "much better" after getting hit in the shoulder late in Sunday's game against the St. Louis Rams.

Linebacker Brandon Watts, who missed last week's game with a knee injury, is the only player whom the Vikings declared out for the game. Wide receiver Rodney Smith is questionable with a hamstring injury; he had been a full participant in practice on Wednesday and Thursday, but was limited on Friday.

Linebacker Michael Mauti is probable to play on Sunday after missing last week's game with a foot injury. Fullback Zach Line is also probable with an ankle injury after missing last week's game, as is guard Charlie Johnson, whom Zimmer said injured his ankle in practice on Wednesday. Tackle Mike Harris and cornerback Jabari Price are both probable with shoulder injuries.
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- The prospect of cornerback Xavier Rhodes and defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd playing in the Minnesota Vikings' home opener on Sunday appears to be improving.

Floyd
Rhodes
Coach Mike Zimmer said on Thursday afternoon that there is a "good chance" that Rhodes (who is nursing a groin injury) and Floyd (who has a shoulder injury) could be ready for Sunday's game against the New England Patriots. Rhodes said on Thursday that he is feeling better than he did early in the week, and he was on the field with his helmet during the portion of Vikings practice open to reporters on Thursday.

"He was alright," Zimmer said. "We're just getting him in some (drills)."

Floyd did not practice on Thursday, but Zimmer said there was a possibility he would be able to do at least some work in the game on Sunday. If Floyd isn't available, Tom Johnson would likely start at tackle for the Vikings.

"We'll know more tomorrow and the next day," Zimmer said.

Also, Adrian Peterson did not participate in practice after going through warm-ups with the team during the open portion, but the Vikings say his absence was not injury-related.
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- The Minnesota Vikings will find out more about their injury situation by the time players return for practice on Wednesday, but on Monday afternoon, coach Mike Zimmer didn't have any reason for great concern.

Zimmer said both cornerback Xavier Rhodes and defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd, who left Sunday's game with groin and arm injuries, respectively, are day-to-day. But the coach said on Sunday that he didn't think Rhodes' injury would be a long-term problem, and Floyd said he'd be ready to play against the New England Patriots on Sunday. Zimmer also said that cornerback Josh Robinson, who appeared to injure his leg on a long pass late in the game, is fine.

He added linebacker Michael Mauti and fullback Zach Line, who missed Sunday's game with foot and ankle injuries, would try to practice on Wednesday.

Vikings Camp Report: Day 5

July, 30, 2014
Jul 30
8:35
PM ET
MANKATO, Minn. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Minnesota Vikings training camp:
  • It was just for a series, but Teddy Bridgewater saw first-team snaps for the first time in training camp. He threw on three of his four plays with the first-team offense, handing off to Adrian Peterson once, and spent the rest of the day working with the second team. Bridgewater finished the day 12-for-15 in full-team work, though many of his passes were checkdowns to the running backs, and coach Mike Zimmer wasn't as happy with his accuracy as he's been on other days. Matt Cassel was 8-for-13, getting a pass batted down at the line of scrimmage and another one nearly intercepted by Xavier Rhodes. Christian Ponder threw just one pass in 11-on-11 work, completing it to Joe Banyard.
  • Linebacker Anthony Barr also saw his first action with the Vikings' top defensive unit, working much of the day at linebacker. He hurried Bridgewater on one blitz, and was used as a pass rusher in sub packages, but Zimmer's report on him wasn't exactly glowing. "The only time I noticed him, he was late on a blitz," Zimmer said. "We talked about that."
  • Defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd had one of his more impressive days in camp, batting down a pass from Bridgewater and rushing off the edge to hurry Cassel on a throw to Cordarrelle Patterson. Cassel had to step up in the pocket and lofted a pass too close to the sideline for Patterson to catch with both feet in bounds.
  • With Robert Blanton out because of a hamstring injury, competition for the safety spot opposite Harrison Smith is wide open. Mistral Raymond got most of the work with the first team, and Kurt Coleman also saw some snaps with the top defense. Blanton could miss several weeks, which would give others a chance to win the spot. It's telling, though, that safety Jamarca Sanford hasn't gotten a chance to work with the first team; Zimmer on Wednesday cited the injury that Sanford had during OTAs and minicamp, but the safety has been participating in practice since the start of training camp. Whatever the reason, it seems Sanford is behind several players at the moment.
  • The Vikings ran a large number of screen passes on Wednesday as they worked on installing their offense, and running back Jerick McKinnon was particularly impressive; he caught four passes from Bridgewater, and surged down the right sideline on one pass after cornerback Kendall James took a bad angle on him. McKinnon ran a 4.41 40 at the NFL scouting combine and has looked smooth as a receiver during training camp. He'll be fun to watch if he gets a chance to work in the open field during the preseason.
MINNEAPOLIS -- In the course of a Sirius XM Radio interview on Tuesday, in which he recapped his visits with the New England Patriots, New York Giants and Seattle Seahawks, defensive tackle Kevin Williams cracked open the door for a return to the Minnesota Vikings.

Williams
Williams said his agent, Tom Condon, "recently had some more communication with the Vikings," adding, "They might be trying to ease back in the picture. We’ll know more maybe as the week goes on.” The 33-year-old had talked to the Vikings earlier this offseason about returning for a 12th season, though it appeared that possibility was dead when the Vikings signed Tom Johnson for their three-technique tackle rotation with Sharrif Floyd.

From here, it still seems a bit difficult to imagine the Vikings being the best fit for Williams, considering he'd have to learn a new system that asks three-technique tackles to engage blockers and play the run more than it gives them the freedom to get upfield. Essentially, that would be a different set of responsibilities than Williams had in the Vikings' old system, and the Patriots -- who hired former Vikings defensive line coach Brendan Daly -- could be a more appetizing option, particularly as Williams talks about his desire to play with a proven quarterback and that could give him a shot at the Super Bowl.

The Vikings still have about $7.75 million under the cap, though, and it wouldn't take much to sign Williams. If they're in search of some more depth at three-technique tackle, they might still have room for the six-time Pro Bowler. We should know soon whether Williams will continue his career with the only franchise he's ever played for, or if he'll move on to a new team.
Thanks to all of you who submitted questions for our weekly Minnesota Vikings mailbag. You can send them to me on Twitter any time during the week at @GoesslingESPN, using the hashtag #VikingsMail.

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MINNEAPOLIS -- Perhaps the sternest test of Mike Zimmer's ability to remake the Minnesota Vikings' defense will come in an 18-day stretch from Sept. 14 to Oct. 2, when the Vikings will play four consecutive games against Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Matt Ryan and Aaron Rodgers, effectively staking their playoff hopes on their ability to stand up to some of the best quarterbacks in the NFL.

In many ways, the Vikings will have to fix two of their biggest problems from last season in the first month of the season if they're going to have any shot at relevance. They didn't win a road game last season (their victory in London was technically a "home" game), and they'll start the year against a St. Louis Rams team that went 5-3 at home last season before playing games at the Superdome and Lambeau Field in the next five weeks.

[+] EnlargeCarlos Dunlap
AP Photo/David KohlMike Zimmer's defense made things challenging for Aaron Rodgers last season.
But the Vikings' struggles against top quarterbacks, if left unchecked, will be an even more pervasive problem in the first part of the season. The Saints, Packers, Falcons and Patriots were the league's second-, sixth-, seventh- and 10th-best passing teams last season, and the Vikings come out of that stretch with an Oct. 12 game against the Detroit Lions, who threw for the third-most yards in the league. Essentially, the message of the Vikings' 2014 schedule is this: Fix your defense and fix it quickly.

Fortunately for the Vikings, Zimmer's had some success slowing down the quarterbacks the Vikings will face -- particularly Rodgers. The Packers quarterback faced the Cincinnati Bengals twice while Zimmer was their defensive coordinator, and lost both games. Last year, he hit 26 of 43 passes for 244 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions against the Bengals, and was sacked four times. And while he threw for 311 yards against the Bengals in 2009, he was sacked six times and fumbled twice (losing one) in a 31-24 loss.

Brady also faced the Bengals twice in that time, with unimpressive results. He went 1-1 in a pair of games against Cincinnati, completing 43 of his 73 passes for 455 yards, three touchdowns and an interception. After picking them apart in a 2010 win, he had arguably his worst game of the season against them last year, completing just 18 of his 38 passes for 197 yards and an interception in a 13-6 loss.

Brees and Ryan both fared well in their lone efforts against Zimmer's defense, each beating a 4-12 Bengals team in 2010. They were two of just four quarterbacks to surpass 290 yards against Cincinnati that season, posting 313 and 299, respectively.

Zimmer's defense employs plenty of man coverage, mixed with some zone principles, and counts more heavily on cornerbacks winning one-on-one matchups than the Vikings' old scheme did. That seems like a good fit for second-year cornerback Xavier Rhodes, and Captain Munnerlyn should help the Vikings' defense, as well, but secondary depth is paramount to surviving matchups with teams that will put as many receivers on the field as the Vikings' early-season opponents will.

The other thing to watch is how effectively the Vikings can pressure the top quarterbacks they'll face, particularly with some of Zimmer's creative blitzes. The Bengals didn't bring extra pressure after Brady and Rodgers all that often last year -- on just 12 and 11 dropbacks, according to ESPN Stats & Information -- but what's worth noting is just how much they rattled those two quarterbacks. Brady had just a 2.2 QBR against the Bengals' blitzes last year, and Rodgers' QBR was only 8.0, as he was forced into checkdowns and didn't complete a pass of longer than 8 yards against the blitz. Considering how lethal those two quarterbacks have been against the blitz in their careers -- to the point where many teams don't try to send extra pressure -- Zimmer's ability to throw them off is impressive. He did it well against Matthew Stafford last season, too, holding the Lions quarterback to just 33 yards and a 5.0 QBR on 13 blitzes.

The key variable to all this, of course, is talent, and it remains to be seen if the Vikings' personnel is as effective in Zimmer's scheme as what the Bengals had last season. But the additions of Munnerlyn and defensive tackle Linval Joseph, the development of Rhodes and defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd and the health of safety Harrison Smith should help. If Zimmer and defensive coordinator George Edwards can coax more out of players like defensive end Everson Griffen and figure out the Vikings' linebacker situation, they'll likely receive credit for it early, because the Vikings' progress will be graded against some of the toughest opponents they'll see all season.
MINNEAPOLIS -- Jared Allen was the face of the Vikings' defensive line for the past six years, but not just because of how productive and colorful he was on the field. It was also because, from 2008-13, the Vikings' defense was rarely on the field without him.

Allen
As Pro Football Focus pointed out this morning, Allen played 6,284 snaps in his six years with the Vikings. His 90.8 playtime percentage last season was the lowest of his Vikings career, and he's suited up in 110 consecutive games, which is the longest active streak in the league among defensive ends.

That plan is all but guaranteed to change next season, thanks to Allen's departure and Mike Zimmer's history of a more egalitarian approach on the defensive line. In his seven years as the Cincinnati Bengals' defensive coordinator, he never had a lineman log more than 1,000 snaps in a season, and the only time a lineman went over 900 was last season, when Michael Johnson and Carlos Dunlap played 949 and 922 snaps, respectively. The Vikings, on the other hand, used Allen for 1,083 last year and Brian Robison for 989.

We say this, of course, with the acknowledgement that the Vikings played the second-most defensive snaps in the league last season, thanks to a unit that was among the league's worst at getting off the field on third downs. But Zimmer seems likely to involve more players on his defensive line, and he's got the bodies to do it; the Vikings have four defensive tackles in place (Sharrif Floyd, Linval Joseph, Tom Johnson and Fred Evans) and added a former starter to their defensive end group in Corey Wootton. It's also worth noting that in defensive coordinator George Edwards' two seasons with the Miami Dolphins -- where former Zimmer assistant Kevin Coyle is the defensive coordinator -- no lineman played more than 83 percent of the Dolphins' snaps.

Would some extra rest have helped Allen be even more productive in Minnesota? It's tough to say, and it would have been even tougher to convince the defensive end he should take it. But it seems highly unlikely Robison will see the same workload next season, or that Everson Griffen will wind up playing as much as Allen or Robison have in the past. Zimmer's had a history of trying to use multiple linemen to keep the group fresh. It's likely a big reason the Vikings have prioritized defensive line depth this spring, and it could lead to a noticeably different look on defense this fall.
 
MINNEAPOLIS -- When the Vikings made their final round of cuts Aug. 31, trimming their roster to 53, they had a nine-man group of defensive linemen that looked like this:

Jared Allen, Brian Robison, Kevin Williams, Letroy Guion, Fred Evans, Sharrif Floyd, Everson Griffen, Chase Baker and George Johnson.

Williams
Griffen
The group was highlighted, as usual, by two productive pass rushers, but four of its nine players were over 30. The group lacked bulk up the middle and depth at the end of the group, and the Vikings were waiting on a breakout year from Griffen that never really came.

Six months later, after a sweeping set of changes precipitated by a new coaching staff, the Vikings' top eight defensive linemen currently look like this:

Robison, Floyd, Griffen, Evans, Linval Joseph, Corey Wootton, Tom Johnson and Baker, with a draft pick or two possibly coming.

Five players in that group will be 27 or younger by the start of the season. Robison and Evans will be the oldest at 31, and in Joseph, the Vikings have their first true road grader since Pat Williams.

It's a striking overhaul to a position that had been the Vikings' hallmark for years under Allen and Kevin Williams. This group still could be the identity of Mike Zimmer's defense, but it figures to be younger, nastier and tougher up the middle, befitting a defense that's designed to be structurally sound and stout against the run.

In some ways, this had been coming since last spring, when the Vikings drafted Floyd, decided not to pursue a contract extension for Allen and asked Williams to void the 2014 season on his contract while taking a $2.5 million pay cut in 2013. Both Allen and Williams sensed it at the end of the season, giving a handful of valedictory speeches in December press conferences and talking about how their relationship would continue once they were done playing together.

Allen and the Vikings decided to part ways before the start of free agency, and while general manager Rick Spielman said the Vikings would keep the door open for Willliams, it seemed obvious the Vikings had other plans. Williams said Wednesday he hadn't heard from the Vikings in a week, and the team signed Johnson to add depth at the three-technique tackle position the same day. And then, to make the inevitable somewhat official, he told the St. Paul Pioneer Press on Thursday night he was even more sure his time with the Vikings was over.

It's a coldly efficient way for one of the Vikings' great defensive players to see his time with the team end, but it's the order of the NFL in 2014. The Vikings have swept through their defensive line remodel with little attachment to their past, and they've come out from at least the first phase of it with a markedly different look to the group. The ultimate success of their plan will depend on young players -- most notably Griffen and Floyd -- turning their potential into legitimate production, but at some point, the Vikings had to detach from their past and attempt going in this direction.
MINNEAPOLIS -- Defensive tackle Henry Melton, who visited the Minnesota Vikings last week, won't be signing with the team for next season.

Melton tweeted on Tuesday evening he is planning to join the Dallas Cowboys, and ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter reported Melton has a multi-year deal with the team. The Vikings had stayed in contact with Melton's agent since the former Chicago Bears defensive tackle visited the team last week, but Melton, who is from Grapevine, Tex., and had played for Cowboys defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli in Chicago, went where he had the most familiarity.

For two veteran Vikings defensive linemen -- Jared Allen and Kevin Williams -- the move might have opposite effects. The Cowboys had just $7 million in cap space before signing Melton, and it seems unlikely they'd be able to afford Allen (who visited the Cowboys on Tuesday) after landing Melton.

The Vikings, on the other hand, still have an opening for another three-technique tackle in their defensive line rotation, and we'll see now how serious they are about bringing Williams back. General manager Rick Spielman said last Friday the Vikings had not made a decision on Williams, but added the team had told the six-time Pro Bowler it had "some other needs that we definitely wanted to get done first."

We'll see now where Williams ranks in the Vikings' pecking order of potential three-technique tackles -- if he's their next option orif they'd pursue another possibility in free agency or the draft. Former Raiders defensive tackle Pat Sims played for Vikings coach Mike Zimmer in Cincinnati, though Sims could still be looking for a bigger role and contract than the Vikings would be able to offer after a strong year in Oakland.

The Vikings missed out on a unique opportunity (albeit with some risk) now that Melton will play his first year after ACL surgery in Dallas. But Floyd looked more assertive toward the end of the season, and his footwork could make him a good fit for Zimmer's defense. The Vikings likely won't pin the whole workload on the second-year tackle, though, and with Melton gone, they'll have to decide how they want to go about adding another player to share part of the job with Floyd.
MINNEAPOLIS -- Henry Melton's time visiting the Vikings has come and gone without a contract, as evidenced by the team's confirmation of his free agent visit this morning. The Vikings have begun the practice of confirming unrestricted free agent visits once the players have left the building, so at least for now, a good rule of thumb is this: If the team announces the visit, the player's time at the team facility has concluded.

Melton
With Melton, though, that shouldn't necessarily be tantamount to the Vikings being out of the running for him. The former Chicago Bears defensive tackle is scheduled to visit the Seattle Seahawks today, according to ESPN's Josina Anderson, and could return to his hometown to visit the Dallas Cowboys after that. But based on what Bears GM Phil Emery said on Thursday, Melton plans to take a number of visits before making a decision.

"I think he's still got some teams to visit," Emery told reporters on Thursday. "We pretty much left it with [agent] Jordan [Woy] that he was gonna go through this process, and when he got through it and he had a pretty good idea of what his market is, we could talk at that time. Of course, the clock is ticking. So our resources or what we have at that time may have changed. But we'll see where we're at when that's all finished."

It remains to be seen what the Vikings would have to offer Melton, both in terms of a contract and a role for 2014. Melton is coming off a torn ACL, but received a franchise tag and a salary of $8.45 million in 2013 after making the Pro Bowl in 2012. Still, the Vikings have second-year man Sharrif Floyd at the three-technique tackle, so it's difficult to envision Melton getting anything more than a decent chunk of the playing time. On the other hand, maybe a situation where Melton could ease back into the wear and tear of the position and the Vikings could avoid putting the majority of the work on Floyd would benefit both parties.

Melton might not have an answer until he's done making the rounds with a few more teams. We'll see how things play out, and whether the Vikings turn out to be a viable option for him.

Offseason Blueprint: Vikings

March, 4, 2014
Mar 4
12:00
PM ET
In ESPN Insider's offseason blueprint project, Insider Matt Williamson identified three players -- wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson, tight end Kyle Rudolph and defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd -- as candidates to help the Minnesota Vikings improve through their own development. As critical as Patterson and Floyd might seem, Rudolph could be the player whose progression has the biggest effect on the Vikings' offense.

As we discussed last week, Rudolph could thrive under offensive coordinator Norv Turner, who's got a long and impressive resume with tight ends. He's been a reliable red zone threat, but if he can turn into a Jason Witten-type weapon in the middle of the field, joining Patterson and Greg Jennings, the Vikings could open up a new layer of their offense and make life easier for both Adrian Peterson and a prospective new quarterback.

It would also be a good time for Rudolph to take off, too. He'll be a free agent after next season, and could be in line for a contract extension before then. The 2013 Pro Bowl MVP was on track for his best season before breaking his foot last November, and under Turner, he could have a transformational effect on the Vikings' offense.
Every day we'll take a look at one of the Minnesota Vikings heading for free agency, what he has meant to the team before and a prognosis on whether or not he'll be back with the club in 2014.

Williams
Free agent to be: Kevin Williams

Position: Defensive tackle

Age:33

Years in the league: 11

What he made last season: $5,000,000 (cap number); $5,000,000 (cash value)

What he did last season: Williams saw far more action than the Vikings were initially planning to give him, playing 66 percent of the team's defensive snaps after the Vikings began the year hoping to limit Williams to between 30 and 40 snaps a game. He had 3.5 sacks, getting 2.5 of those in a cameo at nose tackle on Nov. 7 against the Redskins. Williams fared better as a pass-rusher than he did as a run-stopper, where he was too often moved aside, but in his 11th season, Williams was still one of the Vikings' more reliable defensive tackles.

His potential market value: It's tough to see a team giving Williams more than a one-year deal, but his durability and the fact he can still provide some pass-rushing help might land him a job for his 12th season. He missed the season opener last year, marking the first time he'd sat out because of an injury since 2005, and played through knee problems most of the year after being injured on a low block in the Vikings' third preseason game. If a team were signing Williams for 20-25 snaps a game, he might still provide value.

Will he still fit the Vikings? It's tough to see anything more than a minor role for him, but it's possible, considering how long it took Sharrif Floyd to emerge last year and how many question marks the Vikings have in the middle of their defensive line. Williams is as well-respected as they come -- though a similar locker room cache wasn't enough to keep Antoine Winfield with the team last year -- and he's said he wants to stay in Minnesota. At the right price, he might be worth retaining.

What happens: Williams moves on, signing a one-year deal with another team as the Vikings look to get younger on their defensive line. And after his eventual retirement, whether it's a year from now or several years from now, he's inducted into the Vikings Ring of Honor.

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