One of the weakest position groups for the Minnesota Vikings throughout the season has been the defensive line. While guys like Harrison Phillips, Khyiris Tonga, and Jonathan Bullard are capable of stopping the run; none of them bring a ton of upside as pass rushers.
This offseason Kwesi Adofo-Mensah tried the moneyball approach by replacing Dalvin Tomlinson, who was seeking a hefty contract extension, with former Packers defensive lineman Dean Lowry. Lowry had 42 pressures in 2021 and only carries a $2 million cap hit for this season. While the Vikings did save some money by not extending Tomlinson, Lowry has failed to live up to expectations so far this season.
With Dean Lowry now officially ruled out this Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons, Vikings rookie defensive lineman Jaquelin Roy has the opportunity to not only get more snaps this week but also has a chance to establish himself as a full-time starter on defense moving forward. According to PFF’s Way Too Early 2023 Mock Draft, Roy was once projected to be drafted in the first round coming out of LSU because of his pass-rushing upside. NFL.com analyst Lance Zierlein had this to say about the Vikings rookie defensive lineman:
“The more you watch, the more you like the way Roy plays the game. He’s a little tight in his lower body, which prevents consistent gap leverage as a run defender, but he has outstanding upper-body power and plays with unbridled energy. Roy has one-gapping snap quickness and two-gapping potential if he can become more consistent with taking on blocks. Despite limited starting experience at LSU, he already displays signs of a rush plan and the athletic talent to execute it. Roy is an ascending talent with the potential to become a quality starter.”
A perfect illustration of Roy’s pass-rushing ability can be found in the play below. Watch how quickly Jaquelin can get out of his stance. Roy does a quick double move and acts like he’s going to engage the center. Once his teammate wearing #97 cuts inside, it widens the base of #55, which allows Roy to use his quickness and active hands to generate pressure on Bryce Young. I love how Jaquelin Roy has the athleticism and tenaciousness to be able to finish that play. It may have not resulted in a sack, but Roy completely prevented the former Heisman Trophy winner from breaking down the defense with his legs.
I don’t think LSU DT Jaquelin Roy (#99) is talked about enough.— Matt Wilson (@CoachWilson66) March 29, 2023
He uses his hands extremely well, and has a relentless motor given his size (6’3”, 305 Lbs.)
He reminds me a lot of B.J. Hill, but a much better pass rusher. #Browns
Roy has also shown flashes of upside early in his professional career, particularly as a run defender. Like on this play below from the preseason where he uses his upper body strength and quickness to win his individual battle against the Cardinals left tackle, resulting in a tackle for loss.
Jaquelin Roy (lined up at 5-tech DE on the right) knocks back the LT and makes the run stop / TFL, wiped out by an offensive holding call pic.twitter.com/6wKAe1CPNo— Krauser (@Krauserrific) August 26, 2023
Needless to say, Roy offers the most upside out of all the players on the Vikings defensive line. Now, he’s slated to see a significantly increased workload against a Falcons offensive line that has allowed the seventh-fewest pressures (26.3%) in 2023. One name to keep an eye on is Falcons rookie left guard Matthew Bergeron who has struggled in pass protection, allowing 17 pressures and 2 sacks. Perhaps Brian Flores can find a way to create one-on-one matchups with the two rookies facing off against each other.
Jaquelin Roy and the Vikings' defensive line will have their hands full trying to stop Atlanta’s potent rushing attack featuring rookie sensation Bijan Robinson, in addition to Tyler Allegier who rushed for over 1,000 yards last year as a rookie, and veteran jack-of-all-trades Cordarelle Patterson who is one of the greatest kick returners of all-time. It’ll be a tough challenge for Roy, but having experience playing against top competition in the SEC should come in handy.
Ever since Dalvin Tomlinson left Minnesota in free agency, the Vikings have struggled to replace his production on the defensive line. Interestingly enough, Lance Zierlein’s player comp for Jaquelin Roy is none other than Tomlinson himself. While it’s unrealistic to expect Roy to replace a player like Tomlinson in his rookie year fully, I do believe that Jaquelin Roy has a chance to be a key piece of this Vikings defense down the stretch, starting with tomorrow’s matchup against the Falcons. Don’t be surprised if Jaquelin Roy takes Dean Lowry’s job and runs with it.