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Minnesota Vikings Defensive Line:


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Sure the Vikings DL will not have all these guys make the roster on the defensive line, but still hard to find a group in the last 20 years or so on the Vikings DL that is this deep and talented. 

 

Most likely Brailford, Holmes and maybe Watts or Mata'afa are done for but still maybe some will surprise and stick around.  Still that DE talent is crazy, Hunter is a given but having five possibly 6 potential starters opposite Hunter is impressive, a lot of possible options out there.  Weatherly is a nice veteran addition but adding Jones and Robinson really takes the group over the top, not to mention Willekes who is a hell of a worker and athlete and has yet to get his shot because of injuries.  They could be something special and have a heck of a rotation.  Wonnum is something also who really flashed at times in pass rush situations last year.  The three rookies Jones, Twyman and Robinson could really put them over the top though.

 

DE Danielle Hunter/ Patrick Jones II/ Kenny Willekes / Hercules Mata'afa / Jordan Brailford

DT Sheldon Richardson/ Jaylen Twyman / Armon Watts

DT Dalvin Tomlinson/ Michael Pierce / James Lynch/ / Jordon Scott

DE Stephen Weatherly/ D.J. Wonnum/ Janarius Robinson/ Jayln Holmes

 

 

Then there is the massive improvement inside with Tomlinson who could be as good if not better than Joseph was for the Vikings.  Tomlinson is already a better player now than Joseph was coming over from the Giants.  Team him with a powerful dude in Pierce and if he is back fully he could be something as well, and if not Jordon Scott has a ton of upside and power, not to mention James Lynch who is a very promising powerful DL who can get after the QB and Twyman who has massive upside and potential.  

It could simply be an amazing group, especially if Hunter is fully healthy and back to form, and that was all said before they added Sheldon Richardson to the group who I think should start next to Tomlinson and bring Pierce off the bench until he proves he is a better player if he even is.

 

 

 

They have had some great DL groups outside of the All time great Purple People Eaters.  Hard to top Jared Allen and Kevin Williams, that was a great group but not as much depth.

 

2008

DE Jared Allen
DT Pat Williams/ Fred Evans
DT Kevin Williams
DE Ray Edwards/ Brian Robison

 

 

That DE group in 2016 had crazy high production with those ends, Joseph was very good inside and greatly helped that group.  Yeah after that 2017 they had the best defense in the NFL arguably.  

 

2016

DE Everson Griffen
DT Linval Joseph
DT Tom Johnson/ Shamar Stephen
DE Danielle Hunter/ Brian Robison

 

 

Jerry Ball really helped this group and Randle being moved around was hard to deal with, still not a ton of top end talent outside of Randle.  

 

1998

DE Derrick Alexander/ Duane Clemons
DT Jerry Ball
DT Tony Williams/ Jason Fisk
DE John Randle

 

 

Will see what this new group of guys looks like.  Hopefully they can be something special.  Only thing missing would be an alpha type to provide confidence and a bravado to the unit.  Not sure they have that guy, the 1998 group obviously had John Randle who was the ultimate.  2016 I would honestly say Griffen was that energizer and Robison was a hell of a leader.  2006 obviously Jared Allen was that dude and confidence builder, brought that swagger to it.

Will see who in the 2021 group has that, Hunter has a little but they need confidence in that group to take their play to the next level and become a really elite unit.  They got the depth now just will see how comes out in the end as the big time players.

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Edited by Ozzy
Richardson added.
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I read an article saying that the Vikings failed to improve the d-line in the draft. 

I don't see how they could have done anymore without a2nd round pick and still don't think it was a big of a need as a lot of people thought to begin with.  I'm excited for the potential though

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1 hour ago, vikesfan89 said:

I read an article saying that the Vikings failed to improve the d-line in the draft. 

I don't see how they could have done anymore without a2nd round pick and still don't think it was a big of a need as a lot of people thought to begin with.  I'm excited for the potential though

Agreed, honestly before the draft I did not view DE as a big need and was totally against getting a DE in the 1st round.  Still with what they did, getting Patrick Jones II who before his workout and senior bowl was potentially a late 1st or early 2nd round pick.  Then Janarius Robinson who is super and rangy with solid athletic ability, then Jaylen Twyman who again before the season and opting out was potentially a 1st rounder as well, fell after a bad 40 time and apparently bad workout or something who knows.  Not to mention getting Jordon Scott who is a tree and a potentially solid backup to Pierce if he is not what they thought as a possibly NT type guy.  

 

 

I never saw this before but Twyman was quite emotional after being selected.  Has worked out with Aaron Donald already and knows how to prepare and prep like a pro.  

 

 

Not comparing him to Donald because he is not nearly as quick or athletic or as productive.  But the vertical is better for Twyman and he weighed more at the time, and had a better bench as well than Donald, 40 reps is crazy solid.  

Aaron Donald 6-1 285
40: 4.68
3 cone: 7.11
Vertical 32"
Bench 225 at 35 reps
Broad 115

 

Jaylen Twyman 6-1 301
40: 5.40
3 cone: 7.89
Vertical 32.5"
Bench 225 at 40 reps
Broad 104

 

Still if the kid cares as much as he seems to, is a strong dude and works on his quickness and pass rush moves, he could be a very good pro.  Short DTs seem to always fall unless they post some crazy numbers production wise and athletically like Donald did with that nuts 4.68 40.  Poona Ford was a UDFA and has been very good for Seattle as a shorter DT.  Still if he turns out and say Lynch they could have something.  Granted a lot of guys were not totally finished prospects and still have some work to do but the talent is there for a lot of them.  

 

1 hour ago, vike daddy said:

that's the spirit!

It is not about spirit it is about ability, and name me a DL unit preseason for the Vikings that is this deep in terms of bodies?  So yeah some of the guys will turn out and be very good players, just a matter of who will that be.  And not a bad thing to have a rotation of rushers, that could be great as well.  Not to mention the secondary should be greatly improved so that will help as well hopefully with not so many guys running wide open allowing more time to get to the QB maybe.

 

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Here is another take, has any team in the NFL improved their DL more from last season to now?  Sure Bills added some depth with those rookies Basham and Rousseau and Colts with Paye and Odeyingbo.  But they did not have the veteran depth added either.  

 

Dalvin Tomlinson, Stephen Weatherly, Patrick Jones II, Janarius Robinson, Jaylen Twyman, Jordon Scott...can even throw Michael Pierce into that mix as well.  That makes 7 different players and potentially three new starters all added compared to last years DL unit.  Tomlinson and improving that interior, if that takes and the ends show out like they can talent wise, they could be something.  

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there are a lot of unproven guys (with potential) so it'll be interesting to see how they handle cuts.

sure-fire starters:

DE Hunter

DT Pierce

DT Tomlinson

these guys play at a high level

 

spot-starters/rotation guys (the somewhat proven bunch):

DE Weatherly

DE Wonnum

DT Watts

DE Holmes

these guys have some experience but ideally they wouldn't get too many snaps

 

unproven guys

DE Willekes

DE Mata'afa

DE Brailford

DT Lynch

these guys all have intriguing traits but have gotten limited snaps so far in the NFL.

 

rookies

DE Jones II

DE Robinson

DT Twyman

DT Scott

these guys have zero NFL experience and will need some adjusting to the league.

 

my guess is the roster ends up looking something like this:

DE: Hunter, Wonnum, Jones, Robinson

Weatherly only has $500K guaranteed on his deal and i think they opt to keep wonnum, jones and robinson banking on their potential. there's also very little chance they would make it through waivers to get stashed on the practice squad, whereas guys like mata'afa, brailford, willekes, etc. would likely make it past waivers.

DT: Pierce, Tomlinson, Watts, Twyman

Scott would definitely make it through waivers should the vikings want to stash him on the practice squad, not that he would've won a roster spot outright anyways. the real question is who the vikings keep between lynch and twyman. i think both would very likely pass through waivers so that shouldn't be much of a factor, it's mainly who shows out more in training camp/preseason. 

 

we'll probably hold up really well against the run but it's still to be seen if pierce/tomlinson can generate a consistent pass rush full-time from inside and if watts/lynch/twyman can succeed being the nickel rusher. opposite hunter wonnum has at least shown he can set the edge but there's still uncertainty whether wonnum, jones or robinson will be reliable pass rushers this season. overall i expect a solid D-line but there will almost definitely be growing pains.

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53 minutes ago, whitehops said:

there are a lot of unproven guys (with potential) so it'll be interesting to see how they handle cuts.

sure-fire starters:

DE Hunter

DT Pierce

DT Tomlinson

these guys play at a high level

 

spot-starters/rotation guys (the somewhat proven bunch):

DE Weatherly

DE Wonnum

DT Watts

DE Holmes

these guys have some experience but ideally they wouldn't get too many snaps

 

unproven guys

DE Willekes

DE Mata'afa

DE Brailford

DT Lynch

these guys all have intriguing traits but have gotten limited snaps so far in the NFL.

 

rookies

DE Jones II

DE Robinson

DT Twyman

DT Scott

these guys have zero NFL experience and will need some adjusting to the league.

 

my guess is the roster ends up looking something like this:

DE: Hunter, Wonnum, Jones, Robinson

Weatherly only has $500K guaranteed on his deal and i think they opt to keep wonnum, jones and robinson banking on their potential. there's also very little chance they would make it through waivers to get stashed on the practice squad, whereas guys like mata'afa, brailford, willekes, etc. would likely make it past waivers.

DT: Pierce, Tomlinson, Watts, Twyman

Scott would definitely make it through waivers should the vikings want to stash him on the practice squad, not that he would've won a roster spot outright anyways. the real question is who the vikings keep between lynch and twyman. i think both would very likely pass through waivers so that shouldn't be much of a factor, it's mainly who shows out more in training camp/preseason. 

 

we'll probably hold up really well against the run but it's still to be seen if pierce/tomlinson can generate a consistent pass rush full-time from inside and if watts/lynch/twyman can succeed being the nickel rusher. opposite hunter wonnum has at least shown he can set the edge but there's still uncertainty whether wonnum, jones or robinson will be reliable pass rushers this season. overall i expect a solid D-line but there will almost definitely be growing pains.

It will be hard to predict who is kept.  Scott I agree could maybe get on the practice squad but does suck that all the depth does not mean much if they are no longer on the team.  Especially with Lynch who not sure he makes it through waivers if he plays decent in preseason.  Willekes I hope sticks around or at least gets a chance at the PS, potentially love his athletic ability, motor and passion but yeah is not proven.

Weatherly would be nice to have a veteran force out there so hope they keep him but if that means cutting Robinson or Jones no way.  Maybe they keep 5 DEs, especially if they only keep 5 WRs which would make sense.  With the depth doubt they only keep 8 DL, ideally it would be 10 and could throw Lynch and Weatherly back in the group which could help a lot.  

Watts is ok but long term not sure I see him as a big time talent.  Granted a lot of the young guys have not done anything but hard to argue their talent and ability which is there and they did show at the college level.  

 

 

The last two seasons they got more DL talent than then previous four years combined arguably with 2019 (Watts), 2018 (Holmes/Aruna), 2017 (Jaleel Johnson/Ifeadi Odenigbo), 2016 (Stephen Weatherly).  Only guy worth a damn was Odenigbo and Weatherly and he clearly Odenigbo disappointed last year with an increased role on the team and Weatherly did not do great with Carolina.   

 

2021-2020 draft picks James Lynch, DJ Wonnum, Kenny Willekes, Patrick Jones, Jaylen Twyman, Janarious Robinson.  Sure is projection but would be very surprised if a few of these dudes do not turn out to be solid pros.  In terms of drafted DL on the team that were great, Danielle Hunter 2015 and Everson Griffen 2010 were the only two in the last 10 years to turn out sadly.  

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Cleveland Browns are probably right there with improved DL but they did lose Olivier Vernon, Sheldon Richardson, Larry Ogunjobi, Adrian Clayborn off last years team so that has to be taken into account but did improve arguably with J. Clowney DE, Malik Jackson DT, Tommy Togiai DT in the draft, Tak McKinley DE, Andrew Billings DT and signed Malik McDowell and Marvin Wilson who both have a ton of talent and were not some high draft pick so no real major risks.

 

Still in terms of pure depth Vikings have more DE depth but not as many high level players with experience obviously which is an issue.  Cleveland more proven guys but also way more money put into it with the guys they brought in and they are not long deals either for some.    

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With the way that Patrick Jones likes to rush the passer, usually with an inside move, I wouldn't be surprised to see him get a lot of playing time on 3rd down as a pass rush DT. I don't see him beating out Weatherly, who is very strong against the run.

I'm just thrilled beyond belief that we got the two Pitt guys I really wanted on our DL. Skol!!

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19 minutes ago, SteelKing728 said:

With the way that Patrick Jones likes to rush the passer, usually with an inside move, I wouldn't be surprised to see him get a lot of playing time on 3rd down as a pass rush DT. I don't see him beating out Weatherly, who is very strong against the run.

I'm just thrilled beyond belief that we got the two Pitt guys I really wanted on our DL. Skol!!

True, that is awesome the Vikings got two talented DL who dropped in the draft but honestly both should have been selected higher than they were.  I would not be surprised if Tomlinson has a possibly Pro Bowl season and has the best year of his career as a Viking.  If that is the case and with Twyman providing a much needed interior pass rusher behind Tomlinson they could be a good unit.

A lot of things have to fall in place but hard not to like their youth and potential brought into the DL the past two years.  

 

1 hour ago, mattyice0401 said:

I really hope we can get an extension done for Danielle Hunter, I want to see him in Purple and gold for his entire career.

Agreed, will be hard to do though I am sure but he is easily a top 3 DE in the NFL.  Physical freak show that really uses his hands well, if he can pass on some of that knowledge to those young guys and helps them develop like he did they could have a few dudes on that DE spot.  

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1 hour ago, skywindO2 said:

DE spot opposite Hunter is definitely one to watch. Likely going to come down between Wonnum and Weatherly being the "starter" but I expect a lot of rotation throughout the game. 

That would be the ideal, if they can develop not only 2 but 3 guys opposite Hunter who can play and be effective, would be great to have a guy to spell Hunter as well from time to time.  First things first get a starter but honestly not sure anyone will stand out over the rest and like you said could be a rotation for awhile which is fine as long as the productivity does not decrease and the energy level is high all the time and guys are fresh.  Same can be said for DT especially on 3rd down and Pierce I assume goes out.  Will be very curious how he does, because if Pierce can play and be a Ball/Pat Williams type that unit in general could be very solid, Tomlinson is a force inside as well and is hard to move in the run game also.  Then get some speed rush with Twyman and hopefully Lynch also as backups.  

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1 hour ago, Ozzy said:

First things first get a starter but honestly not sure anyone will stand out over the rest

Agreed. I predict Weatherly will be the "starter" in name only with Wonnum getting about equal snaps. The rookies will be rotated in from time to time too. Gotta keep those pass rushers fresh. 

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Ah...that picture of Marshall, Page, Larsson and Eller brought a smile to my face this morning!!  I doubt the Vikings will ever have that kind of talent all across the d-line, with the longevity that the Purple People Eaters provided again.  But, let's hope this new generation gets close!

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