Vikings GM Praises the “Violence and Impact” of New Player’s Run Defense

NFL: Houston Texans at Carolina Panthers
Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

Being an NFL edge rusher isn’t for the faint of heart.

The trenches are an inherently rugged, chaotic place, so whoever is sticking his hand in the dirt needs to play with great physicality and aggression. Or, put differently, an appropriately-calibrated violence.

Vikings GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah understands this reality, so it makes sense that he was complimentary of Jonathan Greenard for the defender’s “violence.”

While chatting with KFAN’s Paul Allen, Adofo-Mensah made this precise point: “You talk about somebody who gets off the ball extremely well, can win quickly from the pass-rush standpoint, but also plays the run, I would say, with as much violence and impact as he does in the pass game.”

Vikings GM Praises His New Defender’s Run Defense

Jonathan Greenard offers a pile of promise.

The 26-year-old defender is going to become Minnesota’s EDGE1 in 2024. Brian Flores will be leaning on the former Texan to be team’s best disruptor in passing scenarios. After all, he’s coming off of a 12.5-sack season.

NFL: Houston Texans at New York Jets
Dec 10, 2023; East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; New York Jets running back Dalvin Cook (33) is tackled by Houston Texans defensive end Jonathan Greenard (52) during the first half at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Crucially, Greenard isn’t being onboarded to only be a pass rusher. The team’s GM thinks he’ll continue being an excellent run defender.

Last season, PFF gave Greenard a better grade for his pass rushing than his run defense. The year prior, though, was the exact opposite. The defender earned higher marks for stopping the run in 2022 (though in a much smaller sample size). For whatever it’s worth, Greenard snagged a career-high 52 tackles in 2023, but he did miss 5 tackles. Eliminating some of the misses will obviously be part of continuing to grow as a run defender.

Dec 24, 2023; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Texans defensive end Jonathan Greenard (52) walks off the field before the game against the Cleveland Browns at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Brian Flores did a marvellous job with the Vikings’ defense in 2023. Notably, he made them a very difficult team to run on. His side of the ball finished 8th-best in the NFL for rushing yards allowed. A major part of the reason why is because they limited rushers to an average of just 3.8 yards per carry, which finished in a tie for 4th-best in the NFL.

Grafting Greenard into the defense is about maintaining that excellence while also opening up the possibility for a more ferocious pass rush.

Danielle Hunter was excellent in his final season with the Vikings. The soft-spoken pass rusher snagged 16.5 sacks and 22 QB hits, production that isn’t easily replaced. Greenard’s task will be to slide into that top pass rusher role, offering similarly tremendous numbers. But, of course, his job doesn’t stop there. He needs to be an early-down defender, as well.

Sep 10, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Rachaad White (1) is tackled by Minnesota Vikings linebacker Danielle Hunter (99) and defensive end Dean Lowry (94) and linebacker Ivan Pace Jr. (40) as guard Luke Goedeke (67) attempts to block during the second quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Speaking to Gabe Henderson, Greenard clarifies that he’s going to be himself, which includes “talking trash” and not trying to “be everybody else or fill shoes.” He places a high value on being a great teammate and proceeds with a lot of energy on and off the field.

So while there’s an obvious comparison that will occur, Greenard is trying to chart his own path forward without putting pressure on himself to be exactly like Hunter. Part of the path forward is going to be continuing with his strong run defense.

Jonathan Greenard will turn 27 on May 25th. The Vikings believe his best football is still ahead of him.

Editor’s Note: Information from PFF and 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.