Notebook: 'There are some tweaks' to Vikings 'D' under Alan Williams
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MANKATO, Minn. -- Alan Williams chuckled when a reporter mentioned "Leslie Frazier's defense" during his first media conference of training camp on Tuesday.
"People ask me that question a lot," Williams said, referring to whether the Minnesota Vikings' new defensive coordinator will run "Leslie's defense or the Tampa-2 scheme, that type of thing. Football is kind of football."
But Williams and Frazier come from similar football backgrounds -- both having served under Tony Dungy, who was coaching the Buccaneers when they popularized the Tampa-2 under coordinator Monte Kiffin in the mid-1990s.
Williams and Frazier both worked with the Indianapolis Colts' defensive backs while Dungy was coaching there in 2005 and '06. Then, Frazier left to become the Vikings' coordinator in 2007 -- replacing another member of Dungy's coaching tree, Mike Tomlin, who had installed a derivative of the Tampa-2 in Minnesota.
When Frazier was promoted to head coach in January 2011, he gave Fred Pagac his old job and regretted the way the defense got away from its core principles last season, to the point he took away play-calling duties from Pagac in November.
So, Frazier demoted Pagac back to linebackers coach and hired Williams away from the Colts, who were cleaning out their coaching staff anyway, with the understanding he'd be monitoring the defense closely to make sure it's run the way he wants it.
"Our backgrounds are so similar and our likes are so similar it wasn't a whole lot that needed to be tweaked," Frazier said. "Just some basic things that we've got to get right, and part of it is adjusting some personnel as well. There are some tweaks that are going on, but it's not wholesale, and we think it'll be enough to help us play a little bit better."
Many elements of the defense remain unchanged -- including terminology Williams said he opted to learn himself rather than teaching players an entirely new language. The coverages are "fairly the same" as well, Williams said.
But he emphasized installation is only about 20% complete and there will be subtle schematic changes to get players in position to succeed and improve a unit that finished last season 21st in total defense and 26th against the pass.
"We want to make sure that we install it slowly so the guys get it," Williams said. "We're just not going to throw it out there and let them pick it up. We want to go piece by piece and be detailed about what we do."
Williams had to have liked what he saw from his unit on Tuesday. The defense dominated a day focused on short-yardage and goal-line work.
It was a particularly rough afternoon for starting quarterback Christian Ponder, who came up short on several passes, seemed uncomfortable amidst protection breakdowns and finished just 3-for-8 passing in team (11-on-11) drills.
Ponder also had an uneven performance in pads on Monday -- but that was on the heels of two efficient efforts in shells last week.
"You put stuff on tape, let him keeping learning from it," Frazier said. "We are so early in the camp. You don't panic about those moments. You want to go through some of the adversity in training camp so we can smooth some of those things out a little bit later on. Too early, definitely too early to panic."
Frazier laughed about it later, but he clearly wasn't happy when linebacker Erin Henderson burst through the line on a blitz and popped Ponder in the shoulder pads.
Hitting the quarterback is taboo in practice, even if the contact -- like Henderson's -- doesn't put him on the ground.
"No, no, no -- just run by him," Frazier said. "We've had these conversations before, and they get so enthused and so energetic in those moments and sometimes they forget that we've got to keep those red jerseys up.
"But Erin -- he's smart. He's a good player. He knows."
Practice ended with a situational drill, in which the offense had 3 minutes, 10 seconds to eat up while getting the ball into field-goal position from the defense's 42-yard line.
The starting offense went three-and-out, thanks to Henderson's touch-sack and two ugly incompletions thrown by Ponder. The second string got off only one play -- a Webb pass intercepted in stellar fashion by linebacker Tyrone McKenzie.
Sage Rosenfels then drove the third string to the 26-yard, setting up a 44-yard attempt for rookie place-kicker Blair Walsh, who drilled it down the middle amidst a flurry of catcalls from his defensive teammates.
"They were just trying to heckle me and sort of make it as game-realistic as possible," Walsh said. "But that's more pressure than you have in the games, because you've got your teammates right there yelling at you."
Receiver Percy Harvin said his right hand felt good a day after he jammed a finger during practice and had to leave the field for a brief period.
Harvin returned to that practice after a trainer put tape on the finger and showed no ill effects during Tuesday's session.
Afterward, Harvin -- who rushed for 345 yards on 52 carries with two touchdowns last season -- said the subject of him continuing to get touches in the backfield on occasion has been broached.
"We talked about it a little bit," he said. "The coaches, we've been going over my footsteps a little bit here and there. (They) said to expect some handoffs and be ready for them. As training camp goes on, we'll see."
Cornerback Josh Robinson (hamstring) did light jogging on the side but had a noticeable hitch in his stride. Safety Robert Blanton (hamstring) and tackle DeMarcus Love (shoulder) remained sidelined as well.
• There were multiple heated moments in the second padded practice of camp -- most notable, when Shuler and rookie SS Harrison Smith tangled after a play in a one-on-one passing drill. They separated on their own, with Shuler giving a light shove to Smith's chest afterward.