Old Dog, New Tricks: Williams To Nose Tackle?

Posted Nov 8, 2013

Maybe you can teach an old dog new tricks.


There’s not much Kevin Williams hasn’t seen in his 11 seasons of NFL service, all of them with the Vikings. But on Thursday night against the Washington Redskins, Williams did something new. He lined up predominantly at nose tackle. Injuries to starting nose tackle Letroy Guion and backup Fred Evans forced the Vikings hand, as they moved Williams over a spot to play the nose and started rookie Sharrif Floyd at three technique.

The new arrangement worked. Williams registered 2.5 sacks, his first multi-sack game since 2009, and he was actually more of a factor in the running game. While much of Williams' impact in Thursday night’s game won’t show up in the stat sheet, he was penetrating and making plays at or behind the line of scrimmage regularly.

“I hope that’s the Fountain of Youth he’s found and we’re going to see it the rest of the season,” Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier said after the game, “because we definitely need an inside pass rush and we’ve been lacking that, so we need that in a big way for us to be able to do what we want on defense where we rely so much on our front four being able to rush the passer without having to pressure (blitz) all the time.”

With Williams finding so much success playing nose tackle on Thursday night, you wonder if the Vikings could move Williams to the nose permanently. Doing so could serve a dual purpose: 1) it could extend Williams’ career an extra season or two because losing a step or two movement wise isn’t as significant at nose tackle compared to three technique, and 2) it would allow the Vikings to give Sharrif Floyd, who is Williams’ heir apparent at the three technique, more playing time in his rookie season.

Aside from convenience, it’s also fair to wonder if moving to the nose is actually part of the natural progression for Williams. His career has been on defined by change.

-- Williams came to the Vikings as one of the most gifted interior pass rushers the college ranks had seen in years, and that translated to on-field production with Williams tallying 42.5 sacks during his first six seasons.

-- Then the Vikings signed Pat Williams, forming the Williams Wall, and Kevin became part of an elite run-stopping defensive line.

-- Since Pat’s departure from the Vikings, Kevin has made slight adjustments to his game to keep up with the younger players and new style of offensive play – he’s as good as it gets at knocking passes down at the line of scrimmage to make up for the times he can’t close on a sack with the same explosiveness he once had.

While Williams has changed his style of play to account for his changing skill set and the way the game has changed, there is still one constant for the longest-tenured member of the team. His mind and his hands are as good as you’ll find in the NFL. Those two attributes would serve him well as a nose tackle. Controlling the man blocking you and computing the difference between run and pass quickly enough to make a play is what all productive nose tackles do. Williams hasn’t lost a step in that regard.

And maybe moving Williams to nose tackle will help the Vikings defense gain another step.