Fiery Front Seven
One unit of the Vikings starting defense looked particularly menacing against the Seahawks. Versus the pass and the run the first choice front seven brought the heat on each series they played in. Admittedly no one is going to mistake Seattle’s offensive line for the Dallas Cowboys 2.0 but I’m a fan of the old adage you can only beat what is put in front of you.
In their first outing of the preseason the Vikings gave up plenty of long run plays and considering Minnesota have historically struggled against Eddie Lacey, 4 100 yard games in 8 appearances, they limited him significantly on Friday. After giving up a 9 yard run on the opening play of the game the Vikings shut down Lacey to the tune of 11 yards on his next 5 carries and Chris Carson didn’t fare any better when subbing in. The defensive line and linebackers worked together seamlessly plugging holes and flowing to the ball carrier to restrict big gains. Eric Kendricks and Ben Gedeon may have been the players racking up the stats but that wouldn’t have been possible without the unit working as one.
As the game progressed and the backup players left the bench, the Vikings became more susceptible to giving up sizeable yardage on the ground. A lack of cohesiveness detrimentally affected the performance of the reserve units but individual players still shined. Rookie 4th round pick Jaleel Johnson was particularly impressive registering 2 tackles for a loss and standing out to the folks at PFF gaining a grade of 86.3, the highest on the team, with plays like the one below.
"The Vikings fourth-round pick Jaleel Johnson was a force against the run, recording five stops on 15 run defensive snaps. Johnson also had a game high run defense grade of 90.4."
When facing Seattle’s passing attack the defensive line continued where they left off against Buffalo, demonstrating tenacity and depth as they put pressure on the opposing quarterbacks throughout the game. Don’t let the box score fool you, Russel Wilson may have only been sacked once, due to his trademark elusiveness, but he faced consistent pressure throughout the first half.
Danielle Hunter led the way for the starters continuing his impressive preseason, he constantly brought pressure off the edge, was the only Vikings to corral Wilson for a sack and if he was playing any other quarterback he probably would have had a few more.
Undrafted rookie Tashawn Bower had another fantastic performance to further cement his spot on the roster. Following his sack against Buffalo, he logged another quarterback takedown at the Clink and at times looked unstoppable after replacing Everson Griffen. Bower is beginning to look like a fantastic find for Rick Spielman and the scouting staff, the plays below should demonstrate why.
Watch those plays again and keep an eye on #60 at the left defensive end spot. 7th round selection Ifeadi Odenigbo flashed some pass rush potential despite going up against a player drafted 5 rounds ahead of him in Ethan Pocic. Odenigbo finished the night with a sack and 2 QB hits as well as 4 solo tackles, with 1 behind the line of scrimmage.
Historically the Vikings have been fortunate enough to have several talented front seven units, heading into 2017 they look to have the makings of another one for several years to come.