By: Andy Weise
The ruling finally came in from the NFL today that the Vikings pair of pro bowl defensive tackles Kevin and Pat Williams were suspended for the final four regular season games.
Coming off an impressive NFC North battle with the Chicago Bears, the Vikings at 7-5 have a challenging schedule remaining after the upcoming game against the winless Detroit Lions.
The final three opponents? The Arizona Cardinals. The Atlanta Falcons. The New York Giants. These three teams all provide capable running games that would have been greatly challenged by the Williams Wall. While the Cardinals do like to attack through the air mostly, they still have a good running game with rookie Tim Hightower. The Falcons and Giants rely heavily on their running game and wonâ€™t be afraid to run in between the tackles where most teams generally struggle when the Williamsâ€™ boys are there.
While the legal part of the Williamsâ€™ Wall suspensions can be interesting, Iâ€™m going to focus on the actual game of football. Who will step up? Remember this is a team also without middle linebacker E.J. Henderson who backs up the middle of that defensive line as good as anyone in the NFL against the run. Rest assured, the Vikings will not finish the season as the No. 1 defense against the run following news of the suspension.
Who will fill the roles of these monsters? Fred Evans is the first guy who will have to step up his game and play the best football of his young career. Evans, who has had off- the-field issues as well during his time with the Miami Dolphins, generally fills in when Pat Williams takes breaks during the game. Pat is 36 years old and the Vikes have done a good job of giving him breaks and getting Evans involved. Last year it was Spencer Johnson who played Evansâ€™ role but after Johnson left for Buffalo in the off-season, Evans has filled in and done fairly well.
The other spot will be the tough one. Kevin Williams is not just great like Pat in stopping the run; he has great speed to get after the quarterback as well. Kevin has 8.5 sacks this year, his highest total since 2004 â€“ which you have to give some credit to Jared Allen who has taken away some of the double teams the Williamsâ€™s face.
Rookie Letroy Guion, a sixth round pick out of Florida State and Ellis Wyms figure to fill in opposite Fred Evans. Along with defensive end Brian Robison, who gets some time occasionally on third down at the defensive tackle position, the Vikings will have to get creative. Ultimately, this will also test a guy like Allen, who had 3 sacks and 8 tackles against the Bears.
The Vikings defense looked good against the Bears and will probably look fine against the Lions but in order to make the playoffs, this team has to at least go 2-2 over the final four games. There is the chance that the Giants, 11-1 right now, would sit some of their starters in the final game of the regular season but itâ€™s a little too early to speculate on that right now.
Vikings coach Brad Childress will have his work cut out. Thereâ€™s no secret that many Vikings fans have called for Childress to get fired this year and after starting 1-3, the team has gone 6-2 in the last 8 games. This suspension could give Childress some extra wiggle room in the event that the Vikings do not make the playoffs.
If the Vikings do make the playoffs, I donâ€™t want to be a team that faces them. With the return of the Williams Wall in the playoffs and Adrian Peterson as dangerous as ever, the Vikings have finally shown this year that they can pass if they have to and beat the 8 or 9 men in the box opponents sometimes use, so they would definitely be a tough match up with anyone. Stay tuned!Follow paulmbanks