Nobody is going to deny that the Minnesota Vikings’ defense is talented. Given that they were the #1 defense in the National Football League last season in terms of both yardage and points allowed, such an argument would be relatively useless for whoever was making it. However, the Vikings are getting to the point where it isn’t just the starters that are ridiculously talented.
Chris Wesseling of NFL.com has put together a list of the seven deepest position groups in the NFL, and the Minnesota front seven comes in at #2 on his list. Here’s what he has to say about the group:
Head coach Mike Zimmer’s front seven may be even deeper than Schwartz’s. It starts on the line, where Everson Griffen and Danielle Hunter form one of the most explosive and relentless bookend tandems in the league, terrorizing overmatched tackles to put the heat on opposing quarterbacks. Already one of the league’s most reliable run-pluggers, nose tackle Linval Joseph has help on the interior with the arrival of enigmatic former Defensive Rookie of the Year Sheldon Richardson. A pair of recent fourth-round picks, Jalyn Holmes and Jaleel Johnson, team with grizzled veteran Brian Robison to provide depth.
I like that Wesseling mentions both Jaleel Johnson and Jalyn Holmes, because I’m pretty interested to see how those guys develop this season. With Richardson only being here on a one-year deal, and with the way the Vikings’ starters on the defensive line wore down towards the end of last season and into the playoffs, developing depth behind Richardson and Linval Joseph is an absolute necessity. I know that people were excited about Jaleel Johnson’s prospects last year, and with Tom Johnson’s departure to Seattle, he should have every opportunity to step up this season. (Honestly, I had forgotten that Richardson was a former Defensive Rookie of the Year, too.)
As far as the rest of what Wesseling has to say, it’s hard to argue with any of it. Kendricks and Barr are one of the top linebacker pairing in the NFL. He’s not mentioned, but when the Vikings play their base 4-3, Ben Gedeon proved himself to be a solid third linebacker as well. We’ve already talked plenty about Griffen and Hunter as well, but it will be interesting to see who steps up (besides Robison) to try to get snaps behind them when they need a break. Will it be Stephen Weatherly? Tashawn Bower? Ade Aruna?
With most of the starting spots on Minnesota’s roster already spoken for, the battle for depth spots is going to be one of the more intriguing parts of this year’s Training Camp. Whoever gets those spots in the front seven for the Vikings will most certainly have earned them.