Thursday, January 1, 2009

Pat Williams to play? I say no.

Pat Williams intends to play this Sunday when the Vikings face the Eagles in their opening-round playoff game, even though there's some concern that he could injure his broken shoulder even worse by playing instead of giving it further rest. Should he play and risk further injury? The answer, I feel, is "no."

Now, I've been critical of Williams in the past, not because he isn't a good player, but because he's one-dimensional (probably). He stops the run, but is a (probably) non-factor against the pass. (It could be argued that, even though he's not much of a pass rusher, he occupies bodies up front and allows the other Viking pass rushers to take shots at the opposing quarterback.) Also, I think that results matter far more than perception, and the "result" of missing Williams for two games was 3.76 yards per carry by the opposing Atlanta Falcons and New York Giants. That's not as phenomenal a run-stuffing as the Vikings are used to, but it's far from porous and would have ranked 7th overall in the league in 2008. And those two games came the #1 and #8 teams in the league in yards per carry, teams that combined for a 4.67 YPC average in 2008. So, even without Pat Williams, the Vikings allowed nearly a yard less per carry than what the Falcons and the Giants were used to! Granted, it's a small sample size of two games, and the Giants regulars took a good part of the afternoon off, but it's still worth noting that without Williams our run defense only drops from "stifling" to "very good."

Next up, the Vikings face a team that isn't quite the pass-happy team the media makes it out to be (especially the Philadelphia media), but it still definitely prefers the pass. The Eagles were 17th in the league in rushing attempts and 4th in passing attempts, while also ranking 24th in YPC, at 3.97 yards per rush. Some of those runs were called pass plays that Donovan McNabb turned into positive rushing yards, but still, this is not the kind of team you need Pat Williams against. I have no idea if Fred Evans is better at rushing the passer, but if he is, just a little bit, then what's the harm in his playing on Sunday and Williams getting another game of rest? If the Vikings win, they play Carolina and then potentially the Giants (or even Atlanta) for their next two playoff games. Guess who the #1 and #2 teams in yards per carry were in 2008? New York and Carolina, respectively.

I'm still of the mind that Pat Williams should be on the trading block in the offseason. His perceived value, thanks to his mirthful girth (317 pounds!) and highlight-reel stuffs (which count the same as any other tackle) is as high as it ever will be, he makes (I think) $7 million/year, and he'll turn 37 years old next season. If losing him means we drop from the #1 rushing defense to the #7 rushing defense but gives us another piece (either a player or a draft pick) that improves the team in another area, why not make the deal? Losing Williams for nothing, as is the case right now while he's injured, is perhaps a minor downgrade to our defense. Losing him and gaining something in return seems like a no-brainer.

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