Thursday, April 3, 2014
Look for more rotation on Vikings' D-line
By Ben Goessling
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.
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.