The Minnesota Vikings had one of the worst defenses in the NFL during the 2013 season. They finished in the bottom two of the league in points against and yards against. Though there is reason to be optimistic. With new defensive coordinator George Edwards coming in to shake things up, and the players returning, there’s no reason the Vikings defense shouldn’t make big strides this season.
The loss of Jared Allen at defensive end hurts, but Minnesota should still be okay with what they have.
Brian Robison and Everson Griffin return on defensive end with 64 tackles and 14.5 sacks between the two in 2013. It seems likely that these will be the guys playing the majority of snaps on the ends. From there, it looks like there might be a variety of players splitting time among each other.
Linval Joseph comes to Minnesota from the New York Giants. The 6’4”, 323 lb. defensive tackle brings monstrous size to the line and some good experience. Joseph had 33 tackles in 2013 to go along with a fumble recovery and three sacks. He was a starter for the Giants in the past three seasons, so expect to see him on the line when the season opener at Detroit comes around.
On the other side, it looks like Sharrif Floyd and Fred Evans will likely split time at defensive tackle. In 2013, Floyd and Evans combined for two forced fumbles, 25 tackles, and 2.5 sacks. Neither would be a clear favorite to start, but both are capable of getting the job done. Some of the new guys in the room will give these five a run for their money, though.
Corey Wootton comes to the Vikings as a free agent from the Chicago Bears. At 6’6”, he’s got tremendous height for a defensive end and boasts some impressive stats. Last season, Wootton had 28 tackles, three sacks, two fumble recoveries, and five blocked passes. For a team that gave up the second most pass yards in the NFL last season, he could definitely be an asset.
The rest of the depth chart is quite uncertain at this point. Defensive end Tom Johnson from the New Orleans Saints brings four years of NFL experience to the table, and recorded two sacks last season. He could challenge for reps, though as an end, he has some pretty good players ahead of him. 2014 draft picks Scott Crichton and Shamar Stephen both bring some size to the roster, but their youth may limit their reps during their rookie season.
Edwards believes there will be improvements in the Vikings defensive line now that he is at the helm, and that’s exactly what they need.
"There was a lot of holes there when we first came in here.” said Edwards. “We’ve added some new players to that position. One thing you always like to see is guys working together and trying to help each other, and you see that group right now coaching each other when we’re not around, helping each other, trying to talk about pointers, trying to talk about the message that we’re trying to get accomplished, what we’re trying to do schematically, defensively the fundamentals and techniques of it."