Minnesota Vikings’ New-Look Defensive Line
The Minnesota Vikings didn’t address a lot of their positions during free agency, and many units are coming back looking similar to what they did in 2019.
One position that got a big overhaul was the defensive line. The Vikings cut Linval Joseph, lost Stephen Weatherly in free agency and weren’t able to agree to a new contract with EDGE Everson Griffen. There will be two and potentially three new starters on the Vikings defensive line in 2020 and that is a concern.
The interior of the Vikings’ defensive line could be completely new. They replaced “The Big Goon” with “The Juggernaut.” Joseph outproduced Michael Pierce in recent years, but Pierce is younger and more healthy so the Vikings will hope he’s an upgrade over what Joseph was last season.
Who they start next to Pierce is the big question. They could go with another run-stuffer in Shamar Stephen. He was very underwhelming a season ago and got easily moved around by blockers. If he’s out there again, the Vikings’ run defense could struggle once again, too.
The other option for the Vikings is to go with a more penetrating, pass-rushing option. The team used a fourth-round pick on Baylor’s James Lynch. He is explosive off the snap and had 13.5 sacks a season ago. They could pair him with second-year man Armon Watts. Watts had some nice moments as a rookie and was able to get into the backfield and disrupt the timing of the offense.
While these players are promising, both lack experience and could struggle in an expanded role.
As far as defensive end goes, the Vikings are set at the starters with Danielle Hunter and Ifeadi Odengibo. However, if one of these guys gets hurt for an extended period of time, the Vikings could be screwed, as the depth chart is nothing but question marks.
The Vikings defensive end depth chart is made up of a couple of journeymen and two rookies. It’s unclear who of that group will make the team, but if the Vikings have to rely on any of them for more than a game, their pass rush could all but disappear.
If this happens and the Vikings aren’t able to create pressure up front, head coach Mike Zimmer’s defense will fail, and the Vikings’ 2020 season will become a total misery.