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Updated: July 22nd, 2012 9:18pm
Scouting the Vikings: Letroy Guion, Fred Evans aren't matchup threats

Scouting the Vikings: Letroy Guion, Fred Evans aren't matchup threats

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by Tom Pelissero
1500ESPN.com

Each day until players report to training camp on July 26, Tom Pelissero is breaking down the Minnesota Vikings' roster by position, based on observations of games and practices, tape studies and interviews with NFL coaches and scouts.

Day 5

Defensive linemen.

On the roster (15)

Jared Allen, Chase Baker, Christian Ballard, Jeff Charleston, Fred Evans, Letroy Guion, Trevor Guyton, Anthony Jacobs, Eric Latimore, Ernest Owusu, Tydreke Powell, D'Aundre Reed, Nick Reed, Brian Robison, Kevin Williams.

Departures

Remi Ayodele (released).

The skinny

Allen (6-foot-6, 270 pounds) remains one of the NFL's best pass rushers at age 30 and is coming off a career season. So is Robison (6-3, 259), who exceeded expectations in his first shot as the starting left end. Both have relentless motors and may see their snap counts -- 94.5% last season for Allen, 82.7% for Robison -- reduced somewhat in hopes of preservation. Williams (6-5, 311) fought through a foot injury and remained productive in his ninth NFL season, but there's no question he's in decline. Given his age (32 next month) and contract (three seasons left at $7 million per), Williams might be gone already if the Vikings had a viable alternative at the three-technique. Guion (6-4, 303) was the backup there but enters camp this time as the starting nose, where some scouts think his penetrating style will be better utilized. The Vikings gave him $1.5 million in bonuses on a three-year deal to prove he can do it. If not, there's always Evans (6-4, 305), who is all kinds of athletic and has drawn positive reviews in the offseason but tends to run hot and cold.

Best battles

The Vikings got minimal production last season out of an interior nickel-rushing rotation fronted by Ballard (6-4, 283), who appears headed for more snaps behind Williams in the base defense. Those opportunities and backup end duties now figure to go to Everson Griffen and/or D'Aundre Reed (6-4, 261), the hulking seventh-round pick out of Arizona last year who was inactive his entire rookie season. He always seems to get a rush in practice and has a knack for making plays on the ball. Guyton (6-4, 280), the seventh-round pick out of California, is another inside-outside player who may show up when the pads go on. A career backup at age 29, Charleston (6-4, 265) came on board for a minimum salary benefit deal after coaches decided to train Griffen at linebacker. He'll have to beat out younger players and make hay on special teams to have a chance.

Sleeper alert

Nick Reed (6-1, 248) is the only other player with NFL experience, having appeared in 26 games with three teams. Baker (6-1, 298) is a big body out of Boise State who got the biggest bonus ($10,000) among this year's undrafted signings. Jacobs (6-2, 291), Latimore (6-6, 277), Owusu (6-5, 270) and Powell (6-3, 310) all enter as long shots, although Powell's size -- he was originally listed at 325 pounds -- makes him stand out. He signed for $5,000.

One NFL scout's take on ... the Vikings' nose tackles

"I don't think the two defensive tackles really pose an element of concern other than maybe contributing role members, with Guion and with Fred Evans. They're both solid, contributing role players. But in terms of being matchup threats to an opponent's offense and posing a concern where offensive coordinators have to scheme to protect versus those players, I don't think they present that type of challenge."
-- AFC executive

Outlook

For as talented as the Vikings remain at the end positions, the interior line hasn't looked this questionable in years. They'll be tested plenty up the gut until Guion, Evans or someone else shows the nose won't be shoved around for another season -- and Williams has a lot to prove if he wants to extend his career, too.

Tom Pelissero is Senior Editor and columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He hosts from 6 to 8 p.m. weeknights and co-hosts from 10 a.m. to noon Sundays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Tom | @TomPelissero | Tom Pelissero
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