EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- So on Thursday, my ears perked up when Minnesota Vikings coach Leslie Frazier began discussing preliminary plans for rookie defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd, the first of the team's trio of first-round draft picks. The discussion got dangerously close to one of my pet peeves -- allowing conventional position designations to limit and eventually trump talent -- and now it's time to figure this whole thing out.
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, 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?
To me, the most important rule in personnel is to get your best players on the field as often as possible regardless of the position. Instead of rotating your two best players, why not find a way to play them together?
In this case, however, the Vikings can avoid that problem by continuing their recent trend toward nickel and dime defenses. Like most teams, they rare use a traditional nose tackle when they're not in their base defense. Last season, the Vikings used their base on 41.1 percent of their snaps. As a result, Guion played on 43.2 percent of the Vikings' plays last season even though he started 15 games. Evans played 29.6 percent, while Williams was on the field 71.3 percent of the time.
It might make sense to bring down Williams' snaps a bit as he approaches his 33rd birthday. But if Floyd is as good of a disruptor as the Vikings think he is, you would hope he will be on the field more often than either Guion or Evans. It's true that Frazier said "we're not thinking that at this time" when asked if he would play Floyd alongside Williams, but I can only assume he was referring to the base defense.
We can easily keep track via weekly snap counts, but if Guion or Evans plays more than Floyd this season, that will mean one of two things: Either Floyd was a disappointment or the Vikings' scheme was too rigid to make room for him. I'm not sure which would be worse.