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Many think that with the two old Pro Bowl warriors, DE Everson Griffen and NT Linval Joseph gone that the Vikings D line will take a significant step backward and good defense starts with a good line. Before we bury the Vikings line and the defense it should be noted that I think the best DE in football, Danielle Hunter, is still with the team and while we can all feel bad about the Vikings parting ways with Griffen and Joseph, perhaps it was time.

 Griffen is still performing well, but has four things going against him:

1.The wear and tear on his body after playing every season since 2010. 
2. His mental health status. He missed half a season and there is no guarantee those problems won’t reappear. 
3. His large salary on a cap-strapped team. 
4. His continuing to play will hurt the development of another DE, Ifedi Odenigbo.

The Vikings realized this was the situation when they gave Hunter the opportunity to start over Brian Robison. They are now giving Odenigbo his shot. He had 22 tackles and 7 sacks as a part-time player last year. Odenigbo is ready to go and keeping Griffen as a backup wasn’t an option because of the money. This is why Griffen voided his contract and decided to look elsewhere.

 Joseph is a similar story. A nose tackle takes a severe beating during a season. He is doubled teamed a lot and must fight through it.  The wear and tear on his body must be incredible and like Griffen, he has played since he was drafted in the second round in 2010 by the Giants. He isn’t as fast, strong, or as healthy as he has been in the past and he also commands a huge salary on a team that can’t afford him.

It was time to part and the Vikings signed NT Michael Pierce away from the Baltimore Ravens to replace him. According to PFF Pierce is an elite NT with 34 tackles and one sack last year. He is a run-stopping machine standing six feet tall and weighing 340 he is built like a cement block and can’t be moved. He is a more than adequate replacement for the aging Joseph. He is young and was an undrafted free agent acquisition of the Ravens in 2016.
        

The rest of the DEs In the offseason the Vikings signed a free agent DE Anthony Zettel. He was a sixth-round pick of the Detroit Lions in 2016. He was released by the Lions in 2019 and briefly played with the Cleveland Browns and San Francisco 49ers last year. His best year was 2017 when he had 38 tackles and 6.5 sacks in a backup role. He may give some juice as a part-time pass rusher.

The Vikings also have Hercules Mata’Afa who has spent the past two years rehabbing an injury and adding weight and strength and is now a beast at 6’ 2” and 260 pounds. He is fast and has good hands. He can play DE as well as the three-technique DT in passing situations.
        
The DEs: I am the excited about what came in this year’s draft. DE D.J Wonnum taken in the fourth round and sixth-round pick Kenny Willekes I believe both will be very good. Certainly one of them will be good enough to be a situational pass rusher behind Hunter and Odenigbo. Wonnum was Defensive Coordinator/Defensive Line Coach Andre Patterson’s pick in the draft.

He said that Wonnum’s skills remind him of Hunter when he first came to the Vikings. Wonnum is 6’ 5” and 260 pounds. I also like Willekes who the draft gurus said was a good football player but lacked athleticism. He fell to the sixth round because of those comments. He disputed the claim and made and distributed a video showing how athletic he really is and if you watched it like I did you know Willekes will be a very good DE for the Vikings or will be an Olympic gymnast. He goes 6’4” 260 pounds and you don’t see big men that athletic very often.

Stacy Keely, a practice squad player last year and 3rd-year free agent Eddie Yarbrough are the other two ends on the roster.

 The DTs: DT Shamar Stephen will be the starting DT alongside NT Michael Pierce on running downs. Stephen is stout can also sub in at NT if needed. On Passing downs, the DT will be Mata’ Afa or second-year man Armon Watts who began to come on the end of last season and may be the pass-rushing DT the Vikes are looking hard to find. In addition,

The Vikings have DT Jalyn Holmes and NT Jaleel Johnson on the roster. The Vikes also have an undrafted rookie DT in David Moa. However like Wonnum the DT I am most excited about is also a fourth-round pick this year, DT James Lynch, a 6’4” 290 terror who last year had 40 tackles, 9 for a loss, 5 sacks, two pass breakups, and a blocked kick. He was also an AP first-team All American and the Big 12 Player of the Year. I look forward to Lynch and Armon Watts battling for the DT spot.

Conclusion: It’s what’s up front that counts and the Viking’s D line looks pretty good in both talent and depth despite losing former Pro Bowlers Griffen and Joseph as well as backup DE Stephen Weatherly.

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      puck1384Joe Johnson
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      Many think that with the two old Pro Bowl warriors, DE Everson Griffen and NT Linval Joseph gone that the Vikings D line will take a significant step
      [See the full post at: It’s What’s Up Front That Counts]

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