Vikings plan to ease Floyd into lineup

Sharrif Floyd (Bruce Kluckhohn/USA TODAY)

The Vikings were ecstatic when Sharrif Floyd fell to them at No. 23 in April's draft, but they aren't going to force Kevin Williams out of a starting role yet and they have no plans to make Floyd a nose tackle.

When a player is taken in the first round of the NFL draft, the expectation is that player is going to be an immediate starter and will hopefully develop into a cornerstone of the franchise.

But when it comes to rookie Sharrif Floyd, the Vikings were stunned that he fell to them at pick No. 23, but they're not anointing him as an immediate starter. With Kevin Williams in the final year of his contract, the plan at this point is to ease Floyd into the lineup while maintaining Williams as the primary starter at the under-tackle position.

Head coach Leslie Frazier believes Floyd can be a dominant player in the NFL, but he isn't going to rush things. Williams has a wealth of experience and, as Frazier pointed out following the draft, still has quality football left in him – despite the Vikings clearly drafting his eventual replacement. Floyd will be his replacement, but Frazier pointed out that the word "eventual" remains in play and won't be immediate.

"We'd like to be able to get (Floyd) in a rotation system where he's a part of what we're doing with four down (linemen) when he's getting in sometimes with Kevin and just rotate," Frazier said. "Hopefully it gets to the point where he's productive enough where he can warrant increased reps as the year goes on. That would be the optimum if he's able to get in the rotation, have success and we can gradually add more reps to his play as the season goes on."

Keeping the reins on Floyd in his rookie season would appear to be pretty set in stone, barring an injury to Williams. The Vikings appear to have little interest in shifting Floyd to play nose tackle alongside Williams in the base defense. As things currently stand, he will be pushing Williams for playing time so both of them can stay strong and neither will wear down during the course of the long NFL season.

"We're not thinking that at this time," Frazier said. "We'd like for him to get in a rotation system with Kevin and take some of those reps off of Kevin and keep him fresh throughout the season. We're hoping that would be the case."

While it is possible that Floyd will take some snaps alongside Williams when the Vikings are in their nickel defense, Frazier doesn't see that happening in the base defense. He expects Letroy Guion and Fred Evans to battle it out for reps at nose tackle and, at this time, there is no plan to take Floyd out of his natural position.

"I don't foresee such a dropoff with Letroy or Fred for that to happen," Frazier said. "But, for some reason, if that were to happen, then we'd have to consider it. But I don't envision those guys not playing up to par."

If Floyd lives up to the expectations the franchise has in him, there is the potential that at some point he and Williams could line up alongside one another. Although not part of the current plan for the defensive front, the Vikings are keeping their options open and, if forced by a high level of play to let their star defensive tackle and their promising rookie playing together, it would be a happy conundrum for Frazier and the coaching staff to deal with.

"That wouldn't be a bad problem to have," Frazier said.


John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.

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