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Vikings' issues with play-calling boiling to top

The SportsXchange

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Job security doesn't come with 1-7 starts. For anybody. But the hottest seat at Winter Park might not belong to Minnesota Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier, but rather second-year defensive coordinator Alan Williams.

The disconnect between Williams and his veteran defenders was brewing mostly behind the scenes until finally boiling onto the front pages when players went public with their complaints following another last-minute meltdown in last Sunday's 27-23 loss at Dallas.

With a quick turnaround for Thursday night's home game against the Washington Redskins (3-5), Williams has had a full plate considering he's switching gears from a Cowboys team that called only nine running plays and a Redskins team that is back to relying on the read-option now that quarterback Robert Griffin III's surgically-repaired right knee is closer to 100 percent. But Williams also took time to address the comments from his top leaders.

"I don't take that in a negative way at all," Williams said. "Our guys are competitive. They put a lot of work in. Good players ask why: 'Hey coach, why did you make this decision? What were you thinking?' I have no problem whatsoever about a guy asking me why. We explain it, we talk about it and we move on."

Some complaints can be dismissed as sour grapes during a lost season. But when they come from guys like defensive tackle Kevin Williams, who will one day be given Hall of Fame consideration, and Brian Robison, who was given a lucrative contract extension just a few weeks ago, well, they can't be ignored.

The defenders weren't happy with either coordinator in Dallas. They didn't like how offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave opted to pass while leading by three points late in the game, essentially putting the game in the hands of erratic quarterback Christian Ponder rather than a lathered-up Adrian Peterson. But the bulk of the unrest was directed at Alan Williams for his decision to rush only three defenders during the Cowboys' nine-play, 90-yard game-winning touchdown drive.

Frazier said the public comments caused him to meet with the players and talk about what's going on. This comes after Frazier, the team's former defensive coordinator, admitted after the Dallas game that he has become more involved with the defense recently.

Williams dropped a lineman into pass coverage on four of the Cowboys' nine plays during the game-winning march. Tuesday, Williams defended that decision, saying the pressure applied with four and five defenders earlier in the game had caused the Cowboys to get the ball out faster with more screen passes.

"We've been plagued by screens all year long," he said. "Our rush was heating them up for sure so the balls were coming out extremely quick."

Williams also said defenders complaining about dropping into coverage is nothing new. He said he saw when he was an assistant in Indianapolis when the Colts were having successful seasons.

"Since I've been in the league for 10-plus years, that's always been a concern about guys that rush the passer well that, 'Hey Coach, we don't want to drop,'" he said. "My experience with good rushers is that they want a four-man rush. They don't want you to bring five, they don't want you bring three. They want a four-man rush. I have no problem with our guys with that."

--CB Chris Cook (hip) missed Sunday's game, but was able to practice on a limited basis this week. If he's unable to play, the Vikings might have to shift their corners around, as they did last week. Left cornerback Josh Robinson moved to Cook's right side and rookie Xavier Rhodes started on the left side.

--SS Jamarca Sanford (groin) didn't play Sunday and is expected to miss Thursday as well. He was replaced by struggling Mistral Raymond. Raymond continues to take bad angles and miss tackles, turning what should be short gains into long ones.

--RB Matt Asiata (shoulder) has missed two straight games, one because of his shoulder and last week primarily because his father was killed in a car accident the week before. He might be able to play Thursday, which will help on special teams.

--CB Xavier Rhodes (knee) was injured late in the Cowboys game, but is expected to play Thursday. Whether he makes it through the game is another matter. Rhodes, a rookie first-round pick, has been the team's best cornerback, but that's not saying much this year. If he goes down, it puts A.J. Jefferson or Marcus Sherels on the field more. Jefferson did have an interception last week.

--TE Kyle Rudolph (foot) fractured his left foot and will be out about a month or longer. The No. 1 tight end job now falls to John Carlson, who has been a disappointment since signing with the team before the 2012 season.

--TE Rhett Ellison (ankle) has missed the past two games and three on the season. He has a high ankle sprain and might not make it again on Thursday. The Vikings are hoping to get him back because they'll need help at the position with Rudolph out for about a month or longer.

--RT Phil Loadholt (concussion) is out. His replacement, J'Marcus Webb, is a huge step down. On his second snap of Sunday's game, Webb whiffed on a block that resulted in a sack, strip, fumble and Cowboys touchdown in the Vikings' end zone. The Vikings might have to promote Kevin Murphy from the practice squad.

--LG Charlie Johnson (elbow) might not be able to play on Thursday. It would be the first game he has missed since joining the Vikings in 2011. If he can't play, veteran interior backup Joe Berger would start. Berger is primarily a center, but can play either guard spot well enough.

--NT Letroy Guion (chest/knee) might not be able to play. His backup normally is Fred Evans, but Evans also is banged up and didn't play against the Cowboys.

--NT Fred Evans (knee) missed the Cowboys game and might not be ready on a short week. If he's out, it will mean more snaps from rookie first-round pick Sharrif Floyd, who has promise, but has had a quiet rookie year.
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