With the start of Training Camp now officially a month away. . .teams will, as things stand right now, start reporting on 28 July. . .various media outlets are taking a look at players that could potentially emerge as new contributors for their teams in 2020, and a very intriguing name has popped up for the Minnesota Vikings again.
On their list of players that could emerge as “surprise starters” for their teams, Bleacher Report has advanced the name of third-year defensive tackle Hercules Mata’afa as a player that could emerge in 2020. This isn’t the first time this offseason that the idea has been advanced, either.
If you’ll recall, we reported back in April that Mata’afa had put on a substantial amount of weight, tipping the scales at nearly 290 pounds. After giving it a go as an undersized defensive tackle early in his Vikings’ career. . .he’s been listed at around 255 on the team website. . .he now appears to have the size to hold up as a full-time defensive tackle in the NFL.
If you need another endorsement, we can give you one. How about the NFL’s best defensive line coach (and new Vikings co-defensive coordinator), Andre Patterson, making sure to drop Mata’afa’s name in an interview with the St. Paul Pioneer Press recently?
“Don’t forget Hercules Mata’afa, too,” Patterson said. “I’m excited about that group. There’s great talent within the group. There’s a good mix of experience and youth. You’ve still got a good group of guys that are working to continue to progress their games, and I think we’ve got some guys that are ready to turn the corner. It’s going to be a great competition with that group throughout training camp to see how it’s going to figure itself out.”
When you stand out to the point where a defensive line guru like Patterson makes sure that people don’t forget about you, that’s a pretty solid endorsement.
With all of the changes that are on the horizon for the Vikings’ defense in 2020, the three-technique spot is one that is up for grabs. . .or, at the very least, it should be. Shamar Stephen is the incumbent at the position, but he could face some pretty heavy competition from the like of Mata’afa, rookie James Lynch, and current players like Jaleel Johnson and Jalyn Holmes. It should turn out to be one of the more intriguing battles of Training Camp this season.
Not that we’ll get to actually see it, of course. We’ll just have to take people’s word for it. But it would be pretty exciting if it were to happen, in my opinion.