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2017 Vikings Position Recap: Defensive Line

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. —The Vikings defensive line in 2017 was led by defensive end Everson Griffen and defensive tackle Linval Joseph.

Each showed dominance in the season and garnered league-wide honors for their play.

Griffen was selected to his third straight Pro Bowl, and Linval Joseph was named to his second consecutive game. Griffen did not play in the all-star game, but he also was named Second-Team All-Pro as an edge rusher by the Associated Press.

Griffen ranked sixth in the NFL with 55 pressures from the right side and totaled 61 on the season, according to Pro Football Focus. The analytics site rated him as the **No. 51 overall player** in 2017.

PFF counted 35 defensive stops by Joseph, which ranked tied for sixth-most among interior defensive linemen in 2017. The site also credited him with 30 total pressures in the regular season and ranked him as the No. 55 overall player.

Griffen opened the season with 10 sacks in his first eight games and recorded at least 1.0 in each outing to tie Jim Marshall and Jared Allen for the longest streak by a Viking. Griffen also joined Robert Mathis (2005) and Dwight Freeney (2009) as the only players since 1982 to record a sack in the first eight weeks of a season.

He dealt with a foot injury as the season progressed but finished with a career-high 13 sacks, which tied with three other players for fourth this season. Griffen brought his career total to 61, which ranks seventh in Vikings history.

Joseph led all Vikings defensive linemen with 93 tackles (coaches' tally) and was a key factor in Minnesota ranking second in the NFL in rush yards allowed (83.6 per game).

The starting baton for the spot opposite Griffen was passed by Brian Robison to Danielle Hunter, but Robison and Hunter each delivered for the Vikings.

Hunter started all 16 games and recorded 7.0 sacks, helping Minnesota rank No. 1 in total defense (275.9 yards allowed per game) and scoring defense (15.8 points per game).

Robison was credited for his leadership in the way he passed along the starter's role to Hunter. He recorded 4.0 sacks to bring his career total to 60, which is tied with Kevin Williams for ninth in Vikings history, and started one game when Griffen was unable to play. Robison also accepted more tasks by kicking inside to the defensive tackle spot in Minnesota's nickel defense.

"It's definitely evolved over the last few years," Robison said. "It's almost like I'm an end/3-technique/linebacker. Because of what we can do out of it and the different packages we can put together, offenses can't necessarily game-plan like they want to against what we're going to do.

"I like it because it's challenging," Robison added. "You really have to be on your Ps and Qs, but it's very fun because when you get out there, it becomes such a chess match against the opposing offense. They're trying to make their checks and calls, and you're trying to make your checks and calls, as well. It's fun to see it evolve."

Tom Johnson started 15 games at the 3-technique next to Joseph, and Shamar Stephen started the other.

Notable Number

57 combined sacks — Griffen and Hunter have combined for 57 sacks since Hunter's rookie season of 2015. That total ranks second among sets of teammates and just one behind the 58 that have been tallied by Cincinnati's Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap.

Memorable Moment

The Vikings announced Griffen, Hunter and Robison as starters before the Divisional game against the Saints, allowing the longest-tenured Viking the experience of running through the tunnel to a tremendous ovation.

While Minnesota started Griffen and Hunter at defensive end, Robison rotated in and also kicked inside in the nickel package. Robison and Hunter played a tremendous role on the Vikings last defensive snap against the Saints, helping stuff running back Alvin Kamara for a loss of 1 on a third-and-1.

The tackle for loss forced a field goal and kept 25 precious seconds on the clock for the offense, setting the stage for the "Minneapolis Miracle."

Regular Season Stats

Everson Griffen

47 tackles, 13 sacks, 16 tackles for loss, 73 quarterback hurries, three forced fumbles, one pass defended; started all 15 games played

Danielle Hunter

49 tackles, 7.0 sacks, 12 tackles for loss, 51 quarterback hurries, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery, two passes defended; started all 16 games

Linval Joseph

93 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 6.0 tackles for loss, 38 quarterback hurries, one fumble recovery; started all 16 games

Tom Johnson

36 tackles, 2.0 sacks, 5.0 tackles for loss, 30 quarterback hurries; started 15 of 16 games played

Brian Robison

26 tackles, 4.0 sacks, 5.0 tackles for loss, 35 quarterback hurries; started one of 15 games played

Shamar Stephen

30 tackles, 1.0 sack, 1.0 tackle for loss, 13 quarterback hurries; started one of 15 games played

Stephen Weatherly

5 tackles, 2.0 tackles for loss, 1 quarterback hurry; played in 15 games

Jaleel Johnson

2 tackles; played in five regular-season games

Tashawn Bower

1 tackle, 1.0 sack, 1.0 tackle for loss, 1 quarterback hurry; played in two games


"I think it takes a little while to jell together. We got better over the years. This year, we really held ourselves to a higher standard by doing things together, holding each other accountable. I think guys study more in the playbook and really [hone] in on this defense, knowing the ins and outs, the tendencies that the offenses like to run."

— Griffen on the continued progression by the Vikings defense

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