Yesterday, we took a look at what the depth chart for the Minnesota Vikings looks like on the offensive side of the ball. Now, it's time to move on to the defense, where the Vikings have managed to put together a pretty significant collection of talent at every position.
Again, like I did for the offensive depth chart yesterday, I'm going to list all of the available players once, even though different players may be the primary backup at more than one position. And, again, this is just one man's guess as to how things sit with the depth chart right now.
With that, here we go.
|LDE||Brian Robison||Danielle Hunter||Scott Crichton|
|DT||Sharrif Floyd||Tom Johnson||B.J. Dubose||Toby Johnson|
|NT||Linval Joseph||Kenrick Ellis||Shamar Stephen|
|RDE||Everson Griffen||Justin Trattou||Zach Moore|
|SLB||Anthony Barr||Edmond Robinson||Travis Lewis|
|MLB||Eric Kendricks||Audie Cole||Terrance Plummer|
|WLB||Emmanuel Lamur||Brandon Watts||Alex Singleton||Chad Greenway (?)|
|CB1||Xavier Rhodes||Melvin White|
|CB2||Terence Newman||Trae Waynes|
|SCB||Captain Munnerlyn||Jabari Price||Marcus Sherels|
|SS||Andrew Sendejo||Anthony Harris||John Lowdermilk|
|FS||Harrison Smith||Michael Griffin||Antone Exum|
If we go through this position-by-position:
LDE - Robison is going to be listed as the starter for now, but with the way Hunter played after getting extended time last season, it's probably just a matter of time before Hunter makes his way into the starting lineup. Robison has been a great Viking during his tenure in Minnesota, but a defensive end combo of Hunter and Everson Griffen would keep offensive coordinators up at night, I would think. As far as Crichton. . .well, he hasn't been able to stay healthy, and he hasn't done a heck of a lot in the instances where he's gotten on the field. Depending on what the Vikings do in the draft, Crichton might face an uphill battle just to stay on the team.
DT - Floyd has dealt with his share of injury issues as well, but has been outstanding when he's been on the field.
Sebastian Thunderbucket Tom Johnson continues to produce with the Vikings after his roundabout way of finally getting to Minnesota, and he played very well when Floyd was out last season, as well as when Linval Joseph was out and Floyd moved over to the nose tackle spot. B.J. Dubose spent most of last season on the practice squad, but managed to get onto the roster for the Vikings' playoff game.
NT - When he was on the field last season, Linval Joseph may have been the Vikings' best defensive player. He crushed pretty much everything in his path after an up-and-down first season with the Vikings, and will hopefully carry that over into 2016. Right now, I've got Kendrick Ellis ahead of Shamar Stephen to be Joseph's backup, mostly because of Stephen finishing last season on IR.
RDE - There isn't a whole lot that has to be said about Everson Griffen, other than he's pretty great. Right now, Trattou would be down as Griffen's backup if we assume that Hunter would be battling Robison for the other starting spot. Trattou racked up one interception for every 11 snaps he played in 2015. . .that's about fifty interceptions if he gets a full season full of snaps.* (Surprised there wasn't more interest in him in free agency with numbers like that.) Zach Moore brought a Super Bowl ring with him from New England, but was on the practice squad for the majority of the season.
* - I know he probably wouldn't have gotten that many interceptions. Embrace the bit, folks.
SLB - Anthony Barr had a great season in 2015. . .say it along with me. . .when he was healthy enough to stay on the field. Counting his college experience, he's going into just his fifth year as a linebacker, so it's very likely we'll see him continue on his upward trajectory. Edmond Robinson got a couple of starts in Barr's place in 2015, and while he's still incredibly raw, the Vikings had to like what they saw out of him in limited action. Travis Lewis is going to have a fight to get on the field, but it seems like his biggest impact for the Vikings would be on special teams anyway. . .if he sticks.
MLB - Kendricks wasn't the opening day starter in the middle, but he eventually got there and had an outstanding rookie season. He and his former college teammate Barr are going to be wreaking havoc on opposing defenses for years to come. A nasty leg injury early in the season cut things short for OMG AUDIE COLE, but the Vikings brought him back to compete for time as a backup and on special teams.
WLB - As long as Chad Greenway remains unsigned, this is Lamur's job to lose, in my opinion. All the indications thus far are that the Vikings still want to bring Greenway back, so there might be a fight for this spot after all. The Vikings had already reduced Greenway's role last season, and with the Vikings being in nickel somewhere between 60 and 65 percent of the time, whoever wins this spot isn't going to see a whole lot of snaps anyway. Brandon Watts has the athletic ability, but has been unable to stay on the field thus far.
CB - Xavier Rhodes is entrenched at one corner spot, and after a rough start to 2015, he finished the season with a flourish. The biggest issue with Rhodes is that it seems like every game he gets nicked up. Sure, he gets back on the field every game, but you have to wonder if the little nagging injuries are going to add up at some point. On the other side, I think a lot of us are hoping that Waynes will grab the starting spot ahead of Newman, but if we go based on what the team has right now, Newman probably still has to be considered the starter. The battle between those two might be the most intriguing battle of camp on the defensive side of the ball. After moving to a full-time slot role, Captain Munnerlyn had a great bounce-back season in 2015. An injury derailed Jabari Price's season last year, but he's probably still the best option for the slot if something happens to Munnerlyn. We know why Sherels is here. . .and, though he's done a decent job when called upon defensively, that's not why.
S - The Vikings' safeties are fairly interchangeable in regards to "strong" and "free," so the depth chart might be a bit wonky. Harrison Smith is on the short list of the league's best safeties. . .we know there's no issues there. The spot across from him, on the other hand. . .well, it's a bit of a black hole the way things stand right now. Sendejo got a contract extension with a lot of funny money in it before the start of free agency, and the Vikings brought in former Tennessee Titans safety Griffin to either compete with Sendejo or to take the starting spot away. Honestly, the guy I'd like to see get a little more run is Anthony Harris, who went from practice squad to starter in four days prior to the game against Arizona. I thought he did a solid job, and hopefully he can show enough in camp this year to get an extended opportunity. Exum had some ups and downs, and showed some serious toughness in finishing the game against the Seahawks despite a litany of injuries. His best spot may be on special teams, but he'll be in the competition at safety for a while.
And that's a look at the Vikings' defensive depth chart, folks. With as much defensive talent as this team has (and with them likely to add more in the NFL Draft), it's going to be interesting to see how this shakes out leading up to Training Camp this July.