For the next several weeks I will be breaking down the Viking’s roster, evaluating the players and letting you know what to expect from each position.
By Jordan Wright
If you have any questions or comments feel free to write me at jwright3030@ gmail.com, follow me on Twitter @SkolJWright or find me on Facebook at Jordan Wright. All stats are courtesy of Pro Football Focus unless noted otherwise.
As you know, last week I finished up with the offense, but now it’s time to turn our focus onto the other side of the ball. While the offense may score points and have the better known players, it’s defense that wins championships and Mike Zimmer knows that. Before becoming the Vikings Head Coach, Zimmer was one of the most respected defensive coordinators in the NFL. Before Zimmer arrived, the Vikings ranked 32 (out of 32 teams) in points per game allowed and 31 in yards per game given up. In Zimmer’s first year, the Vikings made significant strides and finished 11 and 14 respectively. With a year spent learning Zimmer’s defense, as well as adding some new players, Coach Zimmer will be looking to bring Minnesota into the top 10 of defenses, which is something we haven’t had in a long time. So let’s jump into the defensive breakdown with the defensive line.
Starters: Minnesota is returning all four of last season’s starters, and unless something happens we should see Brian Robison at left defensive end, Linval Joseph at defensive tackle, Sharrif Floyd at the other defensive tackle spot and Everson Griffen at right defensive end. Griffen ended the season as the number eight 4-3 defensive end in the NFL and is only 27 years old, while Floyd finished as the fifth best defensive tackle and is only 24 years old. Those two are young building blocks on the defensive line and should only get better as they become accustomed to Zimmer’s system.
Primary backups: The Vikings have a solid defensive line, but they are probably most excited about the depth. Along with third round pick Danielle Hunter (defensive end), the Vikings re-signed Tom Johnson who was Pro Football Focus’ 23rd ranked defensive tackle. The Vikings also have Scott Crichton who was drafted in the third round of last year’s draft. Crichton didn’t play much last season (only 16 plays all season), but is entering his second season and figures to see the field a lot more going forward. Hunter will probably take a similar approach to Crichton and probably won’t see the field much this year, but he has all the tools to become a very successful defensive end down the road.
On the bubble: There are eight players currently battling for the remaining one or two spots on the defensive line. Those players are Isame Faciane, Shamar Stephen, B.J. Dubose, Caesar Rayford, Justin Trattou, Leon Mackey, Chigbo Anunoby and Chrishon Rose. Out of those players, the ones with the best shot of making the team are Justin Trattou and Shamar Stephen since they played for the Vikings last season. The other players on the bubble are more than likely just camp bodies, but it’s always possible one or two of those guys can step up and make a run at a backup spot.
While the Vikings have the eighth best defensive end and the fifth best defensive tackle in the league, starting left defensive end Brian Robison is the weak spot on the defensive line. Robison finished the season as ranked number 52 (out of 59) at defensive end. Robison is 32 years old, and while he probably has another couple years of decent production left, the Vikings have done a good job in the draft the last two years to make sure his replacement is waiting in the wings.