MINNEAPOLIS, MN - SEPTEMBER 25: Everson Griffen #97 of the Minnesota Vikings looks at a referee after making a sack on Matthew Stafford #9 of the Detroit Lions at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome on September 25, 2011 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Adam Bettcher /Getty Images)
I'm a bit late on this story, but it's important to mention. As REVENGE4WEBB pointed out in a comments section, and has been reported by Tom Pelissero of ESPN1500, Everson Griffen has been receiving serious snaps at linebacker.
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. - The Minnesota Vikings will continue to look for ways to get Everson Griffen on the field this season.
Last year, coach Leslie Frazier used the backup defensive end at linebacker in certain third-down situations, and Thursday the Vikings had Griffen back at linebacker on the final day of their three-day mandatory minicamp at Winter Park.
Given that the Vikings might want to retain an Allen-Guion-Williams-Robison set on 3rd down passing situations, they seem to have an eye on adding another pass rusher on the outside. Griffen is used to position flexibility, and in fact is well aware that he's a swingman in the front 7:
Griffen said he "loved" playing linebacker last season and would welcome the opportunity to get more time at that position.
"It really can help me in the long run," he said. "At the same time, I just want to solidify my spot at linebacker/D-end and do something like that so I can get the job done."
Griffen also got some reps during offseason practices playing nose tackle in the nickel defense. That's a spot where Robison used to line up when he was a backup.
"I pretty much do it all," Griffen said. "I pretty much do nickel inside, three-technique, defensive end, lineba[c]ker, joker - they have me do a wide range of things."
As I've written before, I don't like playing Griffen as a linebacker. Either he drops into coverage a reasonable amount of time - something I'm very suspect about, or he rushes most of the time - something I would be hesitant to signal by bringing him out in these subpackages. The exception here could be a 3-3-5 set, with Allen, Guion and Robison/Ballard holding the line while Griffen chooses his point of attack, but it's not a subpackage we've used often in the past. He is an effective pass rusher from the second level, but I don't think that justifies switching out either Greenway or Henderson on passing downs.
This seems primarily motivated by the fact that Everson is good enough to get more than "10-15 snaps a game," which I think is a little silly. If he was the best at his position, or good enough to warrant more snaps in his position, he would have seen those snaps. There is no solid foundation behind switching someone's position in order to simply get them "more snaps."
The best argument for putting Griffen on the field, to me, is that Greenway's poor coverage skills are unsuited for obvious passing situations - pass rushing is more effective; so if we're going to be rushing 5, it would be better to make Griffen a part of that 5 instead of Greenway. Even so, Greenway is a good pass rusher on his own, and probably better in coverage than Griffen. And some of those plays will require the OLBs to cover.
But even despite all of that, I'll stick with what Griffen said above: solidify a spot so he can get the job done. That's most important. If that means making him a linebacker instead of a defensive lineman, it's still better than uncertainty.