We know that the Minnesota Vikings’ defense is among the best in the National Football League, and the folks at Pro Football Focus have provided us with some numbers to back that assertion up.
PFF has released their rankings of the “front sevens” across the National Football League, and the purple came in at #6 in those rankings.
Top overall grade: DT Linval Joseph, 83.3
Lowest overall grade: LB Anthony Barr, 43.1
It’s amazing that the Vikings are among the top 10 on this list with Sharrif Floyd playing only 25 snaps all season long and Anthony Barr disappearing for long stretches of play. Helping quell those losses, though, were the performances of second-year players Danielle Hunter and Eric Kendricks. Hunter was 15th among edge players in pass-rushing productivity, while Kendricks was seventh among inside linebackers in run-stop percentage.
Let’s delve into the numbers a little bit more and see how the defense ranked.
Starting with the linebackers, it’s pretty impressive that PFF thinks as highly of the Vikings’ front seven as they do, given the lack of production from everyone at the position not named Eric Kendricks. Out of the 87 linebackers that were graded by PFF, Kendricks came in at #27 with an overall grade of 80.3.
The Vikings had two other linebackers that played enough snaps to be graded among that group. . .and it wasn’t pretty. Chad Greenway, in what is likely his final season, came in at #62 with an overall grade of 48.3, while Anthony Barr was way down at #79 with a grade of 43.1. Barr’s drop-off is particularly troubling, as he was PFF’s second-highest graded linebacker in 2015 and appeared to be on the verge of breaking out. He may or may not have been injured all season, depending on who you believe. Hopefully he can bounce back in 2017.
Moving to the defensive interior, Linval Joseph graded highly, as you can see above. His 83.3 overall grade placed him 13th among all defensive interior players graded by PFF. There were 127 defensive interior players that played enough snaps to receive a grade, so #17 is pretty damn good. Tom Johnson came in at #47 with a fairly respectable grade of 72.7. Shamar Stephen, on the other hand, did not fare as well. . .his 41.7 overall grade put him at #116 if the 127 qualifying defensive interior players.
As you’d probably expect, the strength of the defense comes from the edge defenders. There were 109 of them that played enough snaps to get a PFF grade, and the Vikings had two of the top 30. Everson Griffen led the way with a grade of 81.3, good for #27 overall, while Danielle Hunter was just behind him at #30 with a grade of 80.6. For some reason, Brian Robison did not grade out well on the PFF scale with a score of 46.1, slotting him at #89 overall.
The Vikings still have a ton of young talent up front, and if Barr can get back to playing to his level of talent in 2017, the purple and gold should be ranked even higher on this list next season. The core of Joseph, Griffen, Hunter, Kendricks, and (hopefully) Barr will give this team a fast and physical front seven for the foreseeable future. There are some questions to answer. . .can the team find a third linebacker to replace Greenway? Is Sharrif Floyd going to be back after a lost 2016 season? We still have plenty of offseason ahead to answer those questions, but the Vikings’ defense appears to have a lot more answers than questions at this point.