Vikings

Brian Asamoah Is Too Explosive To Keep On the Bench

Photo credit: Bryan Terry-The Oklahoman via USA TODAY Sports

Dalvin Cook was recently asked how fans might feel about his No. 33 jersey being “outdated” now that he’s sporting the No. 4 he wore in college. He had an interesting response.

It isn’t outdated, it’s in great hands now. We got a rook that flies around on that field, he flies around on that field in OTAs and minicamp. It’s not outdated man, just get some tape and change the name. Get you a No. 4 jersey now too. Don’t forget about that, but it’s been fun man, the transition has been good. Seeing a young guy — every time I see him I’m like, hold up, this is different. Just seeing him in that jersey.

Well, if the new No. 33 has caught Cook’s eye, perhaps we should pay attention as well. Welcome to the spotlight, Brian Asamoah.

The Vikings’ rookies and a few veterans are reporting to camp this week to get a head start before the rest of the vets join them. It’s an exciting time for this rookie class, who are coming in wide-eyed and fired up for their inaugural season.

And they’d better be ready. Minnesota’s roster is talented, but Kevin O’Connell is counting on this rookie class to provide quality depth and legitimate competition for several starting positions. This roster fell flat at times last season, and the infusion of young talent could be the boost they need to bounce back in 2022.

Minnesota’s run defense is in dire need of repair and will need a lot of work to return to its former glory. The Vikings gave up a whopping 4.7 yards per carry, which ranked 30th in the NFL last season. The entire front seven needed an overhaul, but one of the most significant areas of need was for a downhill, explosive thumper at linebacker.

Good thing Kwesi Adofo-Mensah drafted one.

The Opportunity Is There

There are multiple reasons for Minnesota’s struggles on run defense last season. Unable to trust the shaky play at cornerback, the Vikings couldn’t commit extra bodies in the box. Injuries up front on the defensive line meant that linebackers were getting eaten up by blockers instead of running clean to the ball carrier. Even a franchise stalwart like Eric Kendricks struggled last season and is looking to return to form with better circumstances around him in 2022.

But all of these surrounding factors don’t change the fact that the linebacker play was simply poor. Anthony Barr was inconsistent in what will likely be his last season in purple, and Kendricks struggled while making the best of a difficult situation. Second-tier players like Nick Vigil and Blake Lynch showed flashes during largely middling performances, and developmental prospects like Chazz Surratt and Troy Dye clearly have a lot more developing left to do.

The Vikings bolstered their linebacker room before the draft with veteran Jordan Hicks, who will likely stay inside in Ed Donatell’s defense. That will allow a revitalized Kendricks to move around the defense, bouncing between inside and outside to find the best opportunity to strike the ball carrier. Other than that, there is a gaping hole in the rest of the rotation.

Asamoah has an athletic ceiling to get excited about

Immediately after the draft, I wrote a piece highlighting the defensive identity that Kwesi and Co. seemed to be forging through their selections. Along with safety Lewis Cine and corner Andrew Booth, I highlighted Asamoah as exactly the type of fast, see-ball-get-ball linebacker that this defense needed to bring back some physicality to Vikings football.

Asamoah is an absolute heat-seeker. He is an excellent open-field tackler with the juice to get sideline-to-sideline. It’s easy to identify him as the type of player who constantly has his foot on the gas pedal, just waiting for a clear lane to the ball carrier to zoom in and blow them up.

For a player with his style, Asamoah shows a remarkable ability to get in the right position and not get lost with misdirection in the running game. When he falls behind, he can often make up for it with his burst.

Asamoah is a bit undersized and needs to hone his skills in coverage. But his skill set provides a clear path to the field in 2022.

The Vikings will be able to immediately roster him as a special teams cruise missile. Once he’s active on Sundays, he’ll have more opportunities to crack the depth chart and get on the field. Even if there are growing pains, his athleticism and tenacity give this defense the edge it needs to start dominating again.

Donatell will need to be smart about how he gets Asamoah on the field early. A simple role where he can focus on playing run-and-chase in the ground game will suit him best at first. That’s a skill set that has immediate value in Week 1.

This Vikings team needs players like Asamoah to step up and make a difference. They still need to help Asamoah evolve, but unlike other developmental prospects in recent years, Asamoah currently has the tools to contribute immediately in a limited capacity.

I think the former Sooner has a chance to be a fan favorite early in his career. He just needs to stay patient, wait for his number to be called, and find a way to make plays like this on Sundays.

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Photo credit: Bryan Terry-The Oklahoman via USA TODAY Sports

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