Nov 3, 2013; Arlington, TX, USA; Minnesota Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen (97) celebrates his sack against Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo (9) in the second quarter Minnesota Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen (97) at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Minnesota Vikings Position Battle: Defensive End

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It’s that time of year where a team is loaded up on talent at many positions.  Sadly, not all of those players will go on to make the 53 man roster or the practice squad.  This the the fifth installment in the Minnesota Vikings position battle series and is all about the defensive ends!

Let’s take a look at the defensive ends currently on the roster:

Here’s a quick breakdown of each of these guys:

Spencer Nealy spent a lot of last year on the Vikings practice squad after leaving Texas A&M the year before.  Athleticism runs in his family since his father Ed is a 10 year veteran in the NBA.  It’s hard to imagine him cracking the 53 man roster, but the practice squad could be his home again.

Oct 5, 2013; Evanston, IL, USA; Northwestern Wildcats defensive lineman Tyler Scott (97) recovers a fumble by Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback Braxton Miller (5) during the first quarter at Ryan Field. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

Tyler Scott is a former Northwestern pass rusher who went undrafted this year.  In his 4 years of college football, he accumulated 16 sacks, with 15 of those coming in his final two years of college football.  It’s hard to predict how he will transition to the NFL, but he’s one to watch in the preseason.

Rakim Cox went undrafted in this year’s draft out of Villanova.  He started 48 times in 4 years as a college player and accumulated 18 sacks, 33.5 tackles for a loss, 4 forced fumbles, and 4 blocked kicks.  Scott could be a valuable member of the special teams unit if he makes the final roster.

Jake Snyder is an undrafted free agent from Virginia.  While he only had 5 sacks in his four years of college play, he did much better with tackles for a loss (17.5) and passes defended (11).  He will need to show a lot of promise to either make the roster or the practice squad.

Nov 10, 2013; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints defensive tackle Tom Johnson (96) celebrates after a sack against the Dallas Cowboys during the second half of a game at Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The Saints defeated the Cowboys 49-17. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Tom Johnson came over to the Minnesota Vikings from the New Orleans Saints this offseason.  While he hasn’t seemed to meet his potential as a pass rusher yet, he could find himself in a situation where he can flourish in Minnesota if he can impress enough this preseason.

Justin Trattou is a former member of the New York Giants who has found himself on the fringe of this team for a long time.  He shows enough skill at times to consider him talented enough to be on the final roster, but other times he seems like just another guy.  Which Trattou will show up this year?

Scott Crichton is a rookie who could push for a big rotational role in this defense.  His speed and pure pass rush ability make him a big asset in this defense.  The former Oregon State standout should make a push for significant time coming off the bench.

Everson Griffen has huge expectations going into this season.  He has shown to be effective in a rotational role or pass rushing from the interior line, but has yet to prove himself as a starter.  Now that he’s getting paid like a star in the league, he will have to play like one.

Nov 7, 2013; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings defensive end Brian Robison (96) celebrates his sack against the Washington Redskins in the fourth quarter at Mall of America Field at H.H.H. Metrodome. The Vikings win 34-27. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

Brian Robison is now the featured pass rusher on this team after the departure of Jared Allen.  Even though Robison has failed to reach double digits sacks in an NFL season so far, it should be expected that he will shatter that mark this year.  He should be a starter.

Corey Wooton came over from the Chicago Bears in a role that was somewhat similar to what Griffen had in the past.  He adds versatility to the defensive line as a solid backup and good player to have on their rotation and in pass rush situations for the Vikings defense.

My Prediction

Here are the players I see making the 53 man roster:

  • Everson Griffen
  • Brian Robison
  • Scott Crichton
  • Corey Wooton

Analysis of My Prediction

The Vikings invested (some say gambled) a lot on bringing back Everson Griffen with a huge contract.  Brian Robison is now the veteran of the unit with the most sacks, so he and Griffen should be tabbed as the starters.  Rookie 3rd round draft pick Scott Crichton was a steal for the Minnesota Vikings and should be brought along slowly in a rotational role.  Meanwhile, Wooton will see snaps all along the defensive line especially in obvious passing situations.

The rest of the rookies should be fighting hard for spots on the practice squad.

Some may wonder why I only have four defensive ends on the roster.  The reasoning for this is because you almost have to count one of the outside linebackers for the team as a part time defensive end.  Head coach Mike Zimmer has already said that he has plans use Anthony Barr in this capacity.  If there is a fifth defensive end kept on the 53 man roster, I expect it to be a special teams contributer and not a dynamic pass rusher.

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Tags: Brian Robison Corey Wooton Everson Griffen Minnesota Vikings Scott Crichton

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