This off season, the Minnesota Vikings have added a lot to their roster, from signing free agent defensive players (like cornerback Captain Munnerlyn, and nose tackle Linval Joseph) to drafting a rookie quarterback in the first round. There are a lot of players that everyone will have their eyes on during training camp, with good reason of course. However, there is one player that everyone will want to watch at training camp, and it’s the 6-foot-3 , 270+ pound defensive end Everson Griffen, who recently signed a five-year, $42.5 million contract ($20 million which was guaranteed.)
Griffen is a scary athlete. The-26 year-old was the Vikings’ 4th round pick in 2010, and has mostly been a rotational player—coming in the game to give Jared Allen or Brian Robison a breather, or as a pass rushing defensive tackle in obvious passing situations. However, one of the most interesting uses for Griffen was as a “gunner” for the punt team in 2012. This really displays the speed of the 270-pound behemoth, as does his 4.46 second 40-yard dash time. Griffen has everything it takes to be a disruptive full time defensive end. He has long arms which help him keep offensive lineman’s hands off of him, great speed off the edge, and tremendous strength which enables him to push offensive linemen into the backfield.
Some football analysts scoffed at the idea of signing a backup defensive end to a deal worth $20 million guaranteed, but I think it’s going to be worth it. Consider the fact he’s only 26 years old, and he will get to learn from one of the best defensive minds in football in Mike Zimmer. Griffen should also be a great fit for Zimmer’s defense, which requires its defensive lineman to be disruptive and to attack the line of scrimmage. Also, keep in mind that Griffen was a guy that Zimmer targeted (and actually preferred) over former Bengals defensive end Michael Johnson. Zimmer obviously already likes what he sees in Griffen, and has already given him a nod of approval.
In his part time role in 2013 where he played on 717 snaps, Griffen accumulated 5.5 sacks, and 39 QB hurries, which is great considering he was primarily pass rushing from the defensive tackle position in the nickel defense. But don’t expect Griffen to gather 15+ sacks this coming season, as Zimmer’s defensive ends do not line up wide outside, which means they must engage offensive lineman before going up field. With that being said, a big question for Griffen is whether or not he’ll be able to be productive despite having to be on the field for extra 250+ snaps. Griffen’s motor was also a big question for him coming out of college, but if any guy can get his motor going, it’s Mike Zimmer.
I’m trying to keep my expectations for Griffen low, as it will be his first year starting in the NFL – but it’s hard to do that when you see a guy as athletic as he is. Although he may not be on the radars of most NFL fans, I think by the end of this off season, and going into the regular season, Mike Zimmer will have a lot of praise for the young defensive lineman.
Ultimately, I think Griffen will cause havoc in the backfield all season from the right defensive end spot, where he will put pressure on opposing quarterbacks as well as make plays in the backfield against the run. Despite trying to have low expectations for him, ultimately I think Griffen will take the NFL by storm, and end up as a backup in the Pro Bowl this year. That may seem like a stretch to the average football fan, but after a full offseason with Mike Zimmer, I believe Griffen will be able to make the jump from rotational defensive lineman to a dominant 3 down defensive lineman.