How Do You Solve a Problem Like Sharrif Floyd

ESPN NFC North blogger Kevin Seifert has some interesting thoughts on the Vikings plans to use newly drafted defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd:

“Floyd plays the same “three-technique” position as veteran Kevin Williams, and during minicamp this week, the two rotated with the first team while Letroy Guion and Fred Evans took turns at nose tackle. Asked how he plans to use Floyd at least initially, [Vikings head coach Leslie] Frazier said: ‘We’d like to be able to get him in a rotation system where he’s a part of what we’re doing with our four-down when he’s getting in sometimes with Kevin [Williams] and just rotate. 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 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.’

“We discussed the issue briefly in Tuesday’s SportsNation chat, and my feeling is simple: I don’t really care who starts, but in the end, the best two defensive tackles should get the most snaps over time. There is a very good chance that Williams and Floyd will be those two players. But because neither is a traditional nose tackle, does that mean they’ll have to share time at one position while two lesser players share the other?”

Of course Seifert has a point. Its particularly relevant when you are talking about offensive players where there’s a lot more versatiliity in terms of what you can do while attacking a defense. But its problematic when you are talking about dong it on the other side of the ball where you are to a large extent reacting to what the offense decides to throw at you. The problem is that there’s a reason for having a nose guard on the line and the way the team functions as a whole trumps individual talent. That’s why the NFL is such a great game compared to, for instance, the NBA where a one or two players are the difference between winning and losing.

The nose tackle in a cover two defense (or really almost any defense) has the job of taking on a double team between the guard and the center. Sure, he’s expected to penetrate more in the cover two than in, say, the defense former head coach Dick Jauron was so fond of where his job was to occupy the linemaen and keep them off of the linebackers. But if you put a nose tackle who is too light in that spot, he’ll get moved out too easily and leave the run up the middle open.

Seifert doesn’t have any constructive suggestions for how you could get both Williams and Floyd on the field at the same time without weakening the defense but I would suggest that its possible in passing situations where a quicker, penetrating tackle might be better for the pass rush. That will get both Williams and Floyd more reps. But you are still going to need a nose tackle for at least half the snaps.

The post illustrates the challenges facing general managers as they approach the draft, again particularly on the defensive side of the ball. The Lions, even more than the Vikings, have embraced the “take best guy available regardless of position” philosophy. This can leave you in a situation that the Vikings currently face – they took Floyd but now have to cut his reps to get WIlliams on the field. Long-term its the best plan as Floyd will be primed to step in for the aging Williams as he approaches retirement age. ven this year, Williams will be better rested and Floyd will have time to gradually adjust to the NFL. But still, the situation isn’t ideal.

In any case it will be interesting to see what the Vikings do here. It sounds like they’ll play it conventionally but Frazier isn’t likely to want to give their plans away in June and he still might surprise us with some interesting alignments as the season progresses.

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