One More Pass Rusher, Please
Anyone who has followed my writing since the end of the season will know that I’ve been advocating for a lot more pass rush help for the Vikings.
Like many of you, I was encouraged to see the team bring Za’Darius Smith aboard. The veteran comes with some concern – the injury foremost among them – but he offers a ton of upside. The deal KAM put together is brilliant.
It’s also worth mentioning that Harrison Phillips is a rock-solid addition. Having strong DTs – even if their main role comes through stopping the run – is crucial for an effective pass rush. Plus, Jordan Hicks picked up a 74.3 pass-rush grade on PFF last season, fourth among linebackers (which excludes EDGE players).
Even still, the team would be wise to add one more impact pass rusher.
D.J. Wonnum put together eight sacks last year, and it’s possible he takes a step in the Donatell defense. That being said, the sophomore wasn’t great last season. Janarius Robinson and Patrick Jones II are largely unproven.
The most prominent free agent out there is Jadaveon Clowney. Unless something dramatic happens, the Vikings won’t be able to add Clowney to their pass rush; he’ll cost too much. Veterans like Jerry Hughes, Melvin Ingram III, and Justin Houston (among others) are all names to remember.
It’s been a long time since the Vikings have opted for pass rush help in the opening round of the draft. Sure, there have been players like Anthony Barr and Shariff Floyd, but no defensive ends since 2005 is pretty wild. After QB and corner, EDGE may be the most important position in football. Might this trend change in 2022? George Karlaftis, Jermaine Johnson, and Travon Walker are candidates for that #12 spot. One could surely find several other great players to consider. Perhaps Kayvon Thibodeaux will even slide down the board.
The broader point, folks, is that the Vikings can’t be content with their pass rush. Smith and Hunter are a really great starting point. Armon Watts, Dalvin Tomlinson, and Phillips will have their role. Ditto for defenders like Hicks, Eric Kendricks, and Harrison Smith. The team would still be wise to bring in one more difference maker. Doing so would put opposing offenses in a no-win scenario in a lot of passing situations.
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