A Step Back? Vikings’ Edge Rushers Have Much to Prove

NFL: Arizona Cardinals at Houston Texans
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If the Vikings’ edge rushers don’t play top-tier football, Brian Flores’ defense is unlikely to become a top-10 group.

PFF has been working through a top 32 positional rankings recently and their assessment of Minnesota’s edge rusher spot brings the issue to the fore. Andrew Van Ginkel comes in at 24th in their ranking and Jonathan Greenard sees his name at 30th. Are these rankings accurate? If so, will the tandem be good enough to take Minnesota where it wants to go?

Vikings’ Edge Rushers Have Much to Prove

Notably, Danielle Hunter gets listed pretty high.

The former Viking gets tossed into the 16th spot, which is actually lower than many would expect. Take a look at the rationale: “Hunter quietly recorded double-digit sacks in each of the past two seasons with nearly identical 80.1 and 79.1 pass-rush grades and 85 and 84 pressure totals, respectively.” The rest of the explanation goes on to foreshadow Hunter “perform[ing] at a high level” while playing alongside Will Anderson Jr.

NFL: Chicago Bears at Minnesota Vikings
Nov 27, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings linebacker Danielle Hunter (99) warms up before the game against the Chicago Bears at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Hunter will be doing his QB hunting down in Houston, so the focus shifts to some new players in Minnesota. Per PFF, there is ample upside with Van Ginkel.

Take a look at their thoughts: “Van Ginkel had a career year in almost every category in 2023, earning a 91.2 overall grade with a 90.6 pass-rush grade. His 53 quarterback pressures and 18.1% pass-rush win rate were both by far the best marks of his career. We’ll see if he can continue that impactful play with the Minnesota Vikings.”

Certainly, there’s optimism for the former Dolphin, but he’s easier to overlook since he signed for just a pair of seasons at $20 million in total money. Greenard, in contrast, got added for four seasons and $76 million.

Oct 29, 2023; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; Miami Dolphins linebacker Andrew Van Ginkel (43) takes on the field prior to the game against the New England Patriots at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

The contract numbers didn’t deter PFF from dropping Greenard lower on the list.

Consider their thoughts on the former Texan: “Greenard enjoyed his best season as a pro in 2023, with a 78.2 overall grade thanks to a 73.2 pass-rush grade. He finished the year with 12.5 sacks and a 12.8% pass-rush win rate. He’ll now look to build on that as a member of the Minnesota Vikings.”

The idea of building is something Minnesota is hoping to see. Rather than already being at his ceiling, Greenard can hopefully keep pushing his game higher. 2023 was a step toward fulfilling his full potential, not his absolute best play.

NFL: NFL Draft
Apr 25, 2024; Detroit, MI, USA; Dallas Alabama Crimson Tide linebacker Dallas Turner is selected as the No. 17 pick by the Minnesota Vikings during the 2024 NFL Draft at Campus Martius Park and Hart Plaza. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Of note is that rookie pass rusher Dallas Turner isn’t included. Quite possibly, he’ll solidify himself as being among the top edge rushers before the season reaches its conclusion. If so, the Vikings could have a combination of three EDGE1 players (though none are likely to rise to the truly elite tier of guys like Myles Garrett, Micah Parsons, and Nick Bosa).

With the offense expected to experience some turbulence while transitioning to a new QB setup, the Vikings will be looking to concoct a fearsome pass rush crew. Seeing some of their top edge rushers outperform the rankings would go a long way in achieving the goal.

Editor’s Note: Information from Over the Cap helped with this piece.

K. Joudry is the Senior Editor for Vikings Territory and PurplePTSD. He has been covering the Vikings full time since the summer of 2021. He can be found on Twitter and as a co-host for Notes from the North, a humble Vikings podcast.