Notebook: Leaner Sharrif Floyd ready to step out of Williams' shadow
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MANKATO, Minn. -- Sharrif Floyd still eats tortilla chips, he just gets the whole grain variety to fall in line with a nutritional plan that has reshaped the defensive tackle this offseason.
Floyd, 23, is expected to be the Vikings' first starting three-technique tackle since Kevin Williams took over the position for a decade in 2003.
"Had to cut out a lot of fats, sugars, stuff like that," Floyd said. "I can't lie. I like chips...I get whole grain wheat, so changing up what you do is all."
Floyd played at a lighter 295 pounds at the University of Florida, but put on weight in his first NFL season to play the position like Williams, who hovered over 310 pounds. Now Floyd's back down to 303 pounds as he's fitted to play the role that Geno Atkins holds down in Cincinnati.
That role in Mike Zimmer's defense has the potential to earn Floyd the type of money Atkins received after he racked up 12.5 sacks in 2012, the most among defensive tackles in the NFL that year. Atkins signed a five-year, $55 million extension before last season, giving him the fourth-highest average salary at the position.
"It's the same defense," Floyd said. "I watched [Atkins] a little bit to see what they want on certain type of blocks, but I can't really mimic what he does. That's his style of play. I have to take the defense and make it my style of play."
By dropping his body fat percentage, Floyd hopes to retain his quickness off the snap as he shoots the B-gap alongside nose tackle Linval Joseph in the interior line.
One key difference in Floyd's play from Atkins could be as a pass deflection threat. At 6-foot-3, Floyd had two batted passes as a rookie and has two inches on Atkins, who is listed as 6-foot-1. Williams averaged six per season while in Minnesota; Atkins has five in his career.
However, one issue Floyd's teammates want him to work on happens when he's already in the backfield.
"He's having a few problems with things right now," Defensive end Brian Robison said. "He's beating guys, but then he kind of puts himself back into a position to allow the offense to possibly get back on him. He was asking me questions about that and I was trying to give him pointers to allow him, once he beats that guy, to stay beat."
Floyd wants to play at a lighter 295 pounds, but the Vikings still need him bulky enough to hold his own in the middle of the defensive line.
For Zimmer, it's a delicate balance.
"A lot about strength is from your butt and your legs and your base and your pad level and those things," Zimmer said. "Obviously, the bigger you are, it's a little bit easier. But typically the bigger you get, you're not as quick as you were."
• The Vikings donned pads for the first time in 2014 on Sunday, which means the first real 1-on-1 drills. Adam Thielen caught a diving grab from Teddy Bridgewater down the sideline, laying out and reaching over the defender.
• Yellow flags flew as the rain poured on the Mankato practice fields, with multiple pass interferences called by local referees. Jabari Price was flagged for one while defending Jerome Simpson. Receiver Kamar Jordan was called for a rare push-off on Marcus Sherels as well.
• On the wet grass, Erik Lora slipped on an out route toward the sideline, but managed to catch the pass from Bridgewater over Shaun Prater to the crowd's amusement.
• Anthony Barr blew back tight end Allen Reisner to stop a Matt Asiata running play in the second-team offense vs. second-team defense.
• Charting quarterback throws: Matt Cassel completed 10-of-13 passes; Bridgewater went 9-for-11 and Christian Ponder completed 5-of-7 passes on the afternoon's team drills.
• Robert Blanton clearly has a leg up on the competition for the second starting safety spot as he ran with the first-team defense again. Jamarca Sanford, Mistral Raymond and Kurt Coleman saw snaps with the second team with Andrew Sendejo (back) on the PUP.
• Despite the wet conditions, receiver Andy Cruse had one of the only drops on the day.
• Tight end AC Leonard saw first-team snaps alongside Kyle Rudolph in a two tight end set ahead of Rhett Ellison, who worked with the second team. Chase Ford (broken foot) is on the PUP.
• With Captain Munnerlyn (hamstring) also on the PUP, rookie Jabari Price saw some first-team snaps as the slot corner.