Defensive end was not a heavily targeted position in the draft. But the Vikings did make a minor free agent move there and have a little different mix than last season. Let’s break down the depth chart as it stands.
1. Jared Allen
The Vikings are seemingly not interested in extending his contract. That makes this a walk year for Jared. Look for him to be extra-motivated with free agency coming up. Everyone thinks he slipped last year so he has something to prove. He is coming off shoulder surgery as well. If he can stay healthy, and if the Vikes are willing to give him the vast majority of the snaps as in the past, this could be a monster stat year for Allen again. Probably not as monster as the year he posted 22 sacks though.
2. Brian Robison
Has settled in as a pretty good defensive end. He’s still not great against the run but he’s developed his pass rush skills nicely and he’s added the bat-down to his repertoire. I really don’t expect any kind of breakout season from him. He will be solid again but not spectacular.
3. Everson Griffen
Alan Williams knows this guy needs to be on the field one way or another. Whether that means taking snaps at defensive end, or at nose tackle in certain situations or even getting a look at linebacker now and again. He is a playmaker.
4. Lawrence Jackson
The former Lion should get his fair share of action in what figures to be an 8-man rotation on the defensive line.
5. D’Aundre Reed
He’s entering his third year and still doesn’t really have a role. It will be a struggle for him to make the team out of camp. Crowded on that D-line and it’s hard to see what he brings that makes him stand out.
Are the Vikes better off than last year?
On paper you have to say yes. Last year they really had only three reliable defensive ends and this year they should have four. That will allow Alan Williams to spell Jared Allen more often. This probably won’t sit well with Jared as he tries to rack up stats in a contract year but it’s not about Jared’s money it’s about the team. The Vikes loaded up on defensive linemen for a reason. They want to implement the hockey rotation approach. The Jackson signing gives them the bodies necessary to do that.