The Vikings Lose Some Size and Muscle

Nov 27, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; A Minnesota Vikings helmet sits idle on the field before the game between the Minnesota Vikings and the Chicago Bears at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Last season, Minnesota’s largest player was Khyiris Tonga. He won’t be reclaiming that role in 2024 as the Vikings lose some size and muscle.

The defensive tackle will be jumping over to Arizona to reinforce Jonathan Gannon’s defensive line. Andrew Krammer of The Star Tribune relayed the news: “Former Vikings DT Khyiris Tonga signed a one-year deal with the Cardinals today.” The Cardinals’ social media has confirmed the deal.

The Vikings Lose Some Size and Muscle with Khyiris Tonga’s Departure

Under Ed Donatell, Khyiris Tonga showed promise.

He stands out at 6’4″, 338. Even among NFL players Tonga looks huge. The 27-year-old defender was involved in eleven games during the 2022 season, starting a pair. He turned his 276 snaps into 28 tackles, 0.5 sacks, 2 QB hits, and 1 TFL.

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Nov 13, 2022; Orchard Park, New York, USA;Minnesota Vikings defensive tackle Khyiris Tonga (95) against the Buffalo Bills in the fourth quarter at Highmark Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports.

The transition to Brian Flores didn’t go particularly well, though.

He made the team and hopped into fourteen games alongside a pair of starts. Despite the increase in games, the lineman had a decrease in on-field time. His snaps went down to 188, a notable drop off from the year prior.

Similarly, his stats also took a step back. He picked up 15 tackles to go alongside a TFL and 2 QB hits. Modest production.

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Chicago Bears
Oct 15, 2023; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Minnesota Vikings defensive coordinator Brian Flores watches his team play against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Jamie Sabau-USA TODAY Sports

Keep in mind that Minnesota wasn’t working with the NFL’s best DL in 2023. The issue was simply that Tonga didn’t seem to be a good fit for what Flores was doing. And, notably, the Vikings defense did a nice job of defending the run even without Tonga’s size. Flores’ crew finished 8th-best in the NFL for rushing yards allowed and then in a tie for 4th-best for yards-per-carry average.

Moving forward, the Vikings will need to keep making additions to their defensive line. The most recent news involves bringing Jonathan Bullard back and then welcoming Jerry Tillery to the team. But, no doubt, more needs to be done. The depth chart consists of just Harrison Phillips, Jaquelin Roy, Bullard, and Tillery.

Khyiris Tonga will turn 28 on July 7th.

Editor’s Note: Information from Pro Football Reference 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.