Vikings Defensive Coordinator Tips Hand on Favorite DE Rookie Prospect

Oct 27, 2017; London, United Kingdom; Minnesota Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen (97) and defensive line coach Andre Patterson during practice at the Hazelwood Centre. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Minnesota Vikings co-defensive coordinator, Andre Patterson, has a reputation in purple and gold circles as an “EDGE whisperer.” The 60-year-old Patterson — also the team’s assistant head coach — is credited with cultivating talents like Danielle Hunter, Linval Joseph, Everson Griffen, and Ifeadi Odenigbo since joining the franchise in 2014.

Inside the 2021 NFL Draft two weeks ago, general manager Rick Spielman found a couple of new prospects for Patterson to develop. The first was Patrick Jones II, a defensive end from the University of Pittsburgh. Jones is a former teammate of Minnesota’s right tackle, Brian O’Neill. He was the Vikings fifth pick of the event, following in order the selection of offensive guard Wyatt Davis from Ohio State. Jones was chosen with clawback draft capital that Spielman received in the Yannick Ngakoue trade last October.

While Jones may indeed force the coaching staff’s hand to start in 2021, it seems Patterson has a more tantalizing prospect in mind.

On KFAN, a Minneapolis sports talk radio station, Patterson said this about Janarius Robinson, a Florida State alumnus, on Thursday:

Robinson was a 4th-Round choice in the draft, picked with the 134th pick overall. Whatever becomes of his talent — the addition of Robinson to the roster is a direct trade-spoil nugget from the exchange of Stefon Diggs to Buffalo last year. Many folks peg Justin Jefferson as “the guy” that Minnesota landed as a swap for Diggs, but the Vikings accrued much more than one first-year All-Pro wide receiver:

The depth chart at defensive end for Minnesota is populous. With Danielle Hunter presumably returning at the left EDGE in September, men like Stephen Weatherly, D.J. Wonnum, Jalyn Holmes, Patrick Jones II, and Janarius Robinson figure to compete for snaps on the right side. And Robinson inhabting Patterson’s mentions cannot be a bad thing for his outlook.

On the surface, it’s odd that Patterson would outwardly praise Robinson when Jones was selected higher in the draft.

The Vikings pass rush was putrid in 2020, so the rebirth of Hunter and the emergence of a RDE is required. Pressure on opposing quarterbacks is a trademark of Mike Zimmer-led defenses. When it was wholly absent during the pandemic season, the entire defense fledged, and the energy was puzzling.

What’s more, Danielle Hunter will encounter life without Everson Griffen for the first time — an unfamiliarity for him. Griffen left the team via free agency in 2020 for the Dallas Cowboys (then Detroit Lions after a trade). Hunter has never embraced a season-long, on-the-field tenure sans Griffen.

And that’s why it’s important for an RDE — or a series of them — to step in admirably for 2021. Here’s what The Draft Network‘s Joe Marino said about Robinson in his 2021 scouting report:

Florida State defensive end Janarius Robinson was a 4-star recruit that started for three seasons in college. While his production was modest, the entire Seminoles defense has underachieved as the coaching staff struggled to develop talent and use players to their strengths. With that said, the flashes from Robinson are exciting. Robinson has long arms, heavy hands, and a stocky build that was engineered to play on the edge in the NFL. He is a powerful run defender, smart processor, and has plenty of tools to become a more effective pass rusher. He has some really exciting flashes rushing the passer where his length, flexibility, rush variety, effort, and hand power shine. There is room for Robinson to round out his game by learning how to consistently apply his immense physical gifts on the field and deploy his rush plan quicker. Robinson has the skill set to start as a 5-technique in a 3-4 front but could very well also serve as a base end in a 4-3. Robinson is the type of prospect that screams better pro than college player as he gets the right coaching to help unleash his physical tools.