It is never too early to look ahead at the upcoming season. With that in mind, I will discuss who I think will be the best defensive player the Minnesota Vikings have when all is said and done in the 2013 NFL season.
Outside linebacker Chad Greenway is this player with tremendous upside that may have not peaked yet.
As a standout linebacker with the Iowa Hawkeyes, he accumulated a lot of buzz coming into the draft. The Vikings selected Greenway with the 17th pick of the 2006 draft, a draft class for the Vikings that included Cedric Griffin, Ray Edwards, Ryan Cook and Tarvaris Jackson.
Unfortunitly his rookie season ended before it could begin due to a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). At this time Vikings fans were getting uneasy: “was the first rounder really worth the lofty pick?” Then he responded by playing in every regular-season game in the past six seasons. Not only did he play, but he got better as every season passed. He proved to Vikings fans that the team got the right guy.
He worked very hard to get back on the field completely healthy and finished the 2007 season with 105 combined tackles and an interception returned for a touchdown. He improved throughout the season and came in the next season amassing 115 tackles and 5.5 sacks. This was then followed by an off year: Greenway only came up with 99 combined tackles. Some thought he had reached his peak and was starting to fall. But, the team stuck with him because of his work ethic and he came into the 2010 season hungrier than ever.
He finished the 2010 season with 144 combined tackles and became a leader for the defense and made plays every game to help the team win. He then followed up this performance with 154 and 148-tackle seasons the next two years while sacking the quarterback at least twice in both seasons.
He has 11 career fumble recoveries and six interceptions. He has been a 100+ tackle guy his entire career and has consistently kept his total tackles around 150 the past three seasons, which proves his ability to find the ball. His stats have plateaued at a high level the past few seasons but his leadership has inspired fellow players. He leads by example.
In the past three years you can see a spike in his stats. This spike on paper also paid dividends on the field in terms of leadership and awareness. During the 2012 season he was all over the field. He looked faster, stronger, and smarter than ever. Players rallied off of his energy and trust everything he does. Other NFL coaches respect his abilities.
I believe this next season will continue to mature Greenway and keep him growing as a leader. He can only get better if he’s in the lineup every week. He stays hungry and works everyday during the offseason to get in shape for training camp and the upcoming season. A lot of work and preparation mixed with a little luck and you have a 16 game starter. This guy is as solid a performer you can ask for when looking at the previous stats from the past three seasons. When asked, Greenway will tell you that he wants to stay with the Vikings for the long haul.
If this is a sign for the success to come, then we have ourselves a guy who will retire in purple and gold.