The veteran Minnesota Vikings defensive end is off to a great start this season and his head coach thinks it might be the best he’s ever seen him play in his career.
2018 is a year that Minnesota Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen will always remember, but it likely won’t be because of anything he did out on the football field.
Following the Vikings’ first two games last season, Griffen had to step aside for a few weeks to focus on improving his mental health. He returned to the team in Week 8, but his performance for the rest of the year didn’t have the same ferocious feel to it that Minnesota had come to expect from their talented pass rusher since he became a full-time starter in 2014.
After an offseason full of trade rumors and agreeing to a restructured contract, Griffen entered 2019 hoping to return to the form the resulted in him earning three-straight trips to the Pro Bowl from 2015 to 2017.
Through six games this season, the veteran Vikings defensive end appears to be back to his old, quarterback-terrorizing self.
Griffen only has three sacks in Minnesota’s first six matchups this year, but he also has more than 16 quarterback pressures. The talented pass rusher has been making life extremely difficult for opposing offensive lineman this season and he’s a big reason why the Vikings defense has the sixth-most sacks of any defense in the NFL this year.
Minnesota head coach Mike Zimmer was asked on Monday about Griffen’s turnaround and what he’s seen the defensive end do differently this season.
"“He’s playing excellent, maybe as good as I’ve seen him play since he’s been here. What makes Everson (Griffen) really, really good is his effort that he plays with, the violence that he plays with and he’s going to make it a full-day affair for that offensive tackle he’s going against. We’re asking him to do some things that really defensive ends don’t want to do, and he goes in there and does them, like getting in the A-gap yesterday. He was probably excited about that, but some of the things he’s not excited about, but he does it because it’s what we ask him to do.”"
Last year around this time, it felt like Griffen might be nearing the end of his run in the NFL. But looking at what he’s done so far this season, it’s hard to imagine him not playing in the league for at least a few more seasons.
Griffen will turn 32 in December and he will likely be a free agent in 2020. He’s spent his entire career with the Vikings, so it’s hard to imagine him wanting to play anywhere else.
If he continues to perform like he has during Minnesota’s first six games of 2019 though, then the team shouldn’t have much of a problem figuring out a way to bring him back for next season.