Minnesota Vikings Position Battles: Defensive Line

Photo Credit: Brian Curski

Over the next couple weeks, Zone Coverage will break down the Minnesota Vikings post-draft roster by position group.

Previous stories: 
Running backs
Wide receivers
Tight ends
Offensive line

Today’s Focus: Defensive line

We move to the defense, where the Vikings were once again very strong last season. They were anchored by a formidable defensive line that placed fifth in the league in sacks with 41. Twenty-eight of those came from the trio of Everson Griffen, Brian Robison and Danielle Hunter, who will all return to keep this unit strong under position coach Andre Patterson. With an aging D-line core, however, the Vikings brought in several intriguing prospects that could represent the team’s future at the position.

Departures: Justin Trattou (FA), Scott Crichton (FA)
Arrivals: Ifeadi Odenigbo, Jaleel Johnson, Datone Jones, Caleb Kidder, Sam McCaskill, Tashawn Bower, Dylan Bradley
Already rostered: Everson Griffen, Brian Robison, Linval Joseph, Danielle Hunter, Sharrif Floyd, Shamar Stephen, Toby Johnson, Stephen Weatherly, B.J. DuBose, Tom Johnson

THE LONG SHOTS: Caleb Kidder, Sam McCaskill, Tashawn Bower, Dylan Bradley, B.J. DuBose
The chances of making the team from the long-shot category at this position are as grim as any other on the team. The Vikings are deep and talented all along the line with little room for outsiders, especially considering they addressed the position effectively in free agency and the draft. The only name in this group you might recognize is that of the former sixth-round pick DuBose, who tore his ACL during OTAs last season and missed the entire season. This probably marks the end of the road for him.

UPDATE: Since this article’s publication, the Vikings have waived DuBose.

ON THE FRINGE: Ifeadi Odenigbo, Toby Johnson, Stephen Weatherly
In Odenigbo and Weatherly, the Vikings have a pair of seventh-round defensive ends from Northwestern. In Johnson, they have a promising defensive tackle who might have been one of the most pleasant surprises of last preseason. While Johnson may be blocked by a logjam of bodies playing the interior — especially if the gentleman in our next category gets healthy — the two ends may have an opening since Justin Trattou and Scott Crichton were not retained.

UNKNOWN: Sharrif Floyd
Though his salary is guaranteed due to injury, his place on this 53-man roster is not; not unless his quadriceps nerves heal following complications from his knee surgery. Floyd was a terrific player when healthy and played a big part in Minnesota’s division title run in 2015, but his career is now jeopardy. It appears like there is no timeline on Floyd — just a hope that his ailment reverses itself posthaste. At this point, it is realistic to expect his season to begin on the Physically Unable to Perform or Non-Football Injury list.

LIKELY LOCKS: Everson Griffen, Brian Robison, Linval Joseph, Danielle Hunter, Datone Jones, Tom Johnson, Shamar Stephen, Jaleel Johnson
The Vikings’ continuity on the defensive line in the Mike Zimmer Era has been admirable. With Griffen, Robison, Joseph and Tom Johnson, Minnesota has a group of veterans that only seem to get better with age. In Hunter and Stephen, they have two superb value draft picks who have outplayed their draft position. Add Jones and this year’s fourth-round pick Jaleel Johnson to the mix, and this group should be as well-rounded a group as there is in the league.

Making the roster: 
Griffen, Robison, Joseph, Hunter, Jones, Tom Johnson, Stephen, Jaleel Johnson, Stephen Weatherly
Practice squad potential: Odenigbo

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