The Vikings signed arguably the best defensive tackle available in free agency this year in Dalvin Tomlinson. He was a team captain and four-year starter for the Giants who never missed a game. He was also a fan favorite, the team’s Walter Payton Man of the Year nominee, and a player the Giants hoped to extend.
But the Giants prioritized extending Leonard Williams with their limited cap space, and with Dexter Lawrence also on the roster, extending Tomlinson apparently was a lower priority. That wasn’t enough to keep Tomlinson, who wasted no time in signing with the Vikings once the free agency tampering period opened.
Tomlinson basically split his time last season between NT and DT/DE in the Giants 3-4 front, and had easily his best season as a pass rusher, with 28 QB pressures and a 74.6 pass rush grade from PFF, on 334 pass rush snaps.
I hadn’t seen a lot of Tomlinson on the field with the Giants, and his reputation of more of a run stuffing NT is what I was expecting to see when I began watching his tape. And yes, he can certainly stuff the run. But I was surprised how well he could collapse the pocket as a pass rusher. He was even good at getting his hands up and knocking down passes. And as a run stuffer I was surprised how well he moves to get through the trash and make the tackle even when it’s not his gap. One-on-one I didn’t see many offensive linemen that could handle his 6’3”, 320 pound load. Even some of the very best. Against the not-so-good he could ragdoll them. Poor Ben Garland. And Connor Williams. And a couple others too. He’s really good at extending his 33.5” arms and getting off blocks, and showed good explosion off the snap as well.
Bottom line, he’s just a really good all-around defensive tackle. Here is his tape over the past couple years when he was involved in the tackle- so a bit of a highlight reel in that sense.
I’m curious now to see how he does as a defensive tackle in the Vikings’ scheme, and how they utilize him. Last season with the Giants, he was the big guy on the D-line and took his share of double teams. Not all the time, but a significant percentage. This season with the Vikings, it will be Michael Pierce who likely takes most of the double-teams, if they position Tomlinson at 3-tech, which looks to be the case. However, I imagine the Vikings will use a rotation, most likely including Armon Watts, who may or may not play NT next to Tomlinson. My hope is that they can scheme Tomlinson to get the interior one-on-one matchup as much as possible, which could really help his production- run and pass.
In any case, the Vikings interior defensive line clearly has a notable upgrade in Tomlinson, and one with Pro-Bowl potential. It remains to be seen how well he’ll adapt with his new team, but he stands to benefit by getting more one-on-one reps at 3-technique, particularly as a pass rusher, but that could also help his run defense production as well.
Having both 335 pound Michael Pierce and 320 pound Dalvin Tomlinson manning the Vikings interior defensive line could give it an entirely different look than we’ve seen recently, and perhaps not for about 15 years or so, when Pat and Kevin Williams played together. Danielle Hunter, Michael Pierce, Dalvin Tomlinson, and Stephen Weatherly/DJ Wonnum/Draft Pick could prove to be quite a formidable front for the Vikings defense this season.
We’ll have to wait and see how it plays out.
Assuming Danielle Hunter leads the Vikings D-line in sacks this season, who comes in 2nd?
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