While the Vikings didn't meet their goals for the 2018 season, the defense – after an initial rough start – had another successful campaign.
Minnesota's defensive line weathered the five-week loss of Everson Griffen, who stepped away from the team to deal with a personal matter, and saw the emergence of third-year defensive end Stephen Weatherly. Danielle Hunter took his game to another level, and the Vikings felt the addition of free agent 3-technique Sheldon Richardson on the interior.
Andrew Krammer of the Star Tribune recently took a look at the unit and gave out grades for each of the Vikings defensive lineman. He described his scale as 1-5 "with '5' marking excellence, '4' for above-average, '2' for below-average and '1' for failure to perform." He also specified that players who weren't on the active roster for at least six weeks or who played in three games or fewer were not graded.
Krammer graded Hunter the highest with a 4.5. He said that Hunter "immediately rewarded the Vikings trust" by turning in a career-best season after signing a contract extension in June. Krammer wrote:
One of the NFL's most complete edge rushers, Hunter was just one of four to rank [in the] top 10 in both total quarterback pressures (67 sacks/hits/hurries, 7th) and run stops (26 stops, 7th). Only J.J. Watt, Cam Jordan and Trey Flowers did the same this season. Hunter's 21 tackles for losses ranked second in the NFL behind L.A.'s Aaron Donald. Returned a fumble 32 yards for a touchdown and earned NFC Defensive Player of the Week honors for his 3.5 sacks in the Week 9 win against the Lions. Should be an NFL Defensive Player of the Year candidate if not for Donald's historically great season. One of five Vikings to play over 1,000 snaps, including his 146 on special teams to lead all Vikings starters. Flagged once for defensive holding. Missed six tackles.
Just below Hunter, Krammer gave Richardson a 4.0 grade, saying he "also didn't conjure up any buyer's remorse" after inking a one-year deal in March.
Didn't quite return to his disruptive peak of the 2014 and 2015 seasons in New York, but Richardson was reliably disruptive if short of spectacular. He's a premiere athlete with relentless effort, evident when he chased down a screen while up 20 points in New York.
Coming in behind Richardson, Krammer evaluated Minnesota's other main linemen with the following grades: Linval Joseph (3.5), Griffen (3.0), Weatherly (3.0), Tom Johnson (2.5) and Jaleel Johnson (2.0).
Due to his aforementioned grading parameters, Krammer did not assess Jalyn Holmes or Tashawn Bower.
View 30 of the best fan images from the Vikings 2018 season.
ESPN's Cronin opines how Vikings 'move forward' after disappointing season
Reflecting back on Minnesota's 8-7-1 season, ESPN's Courtney Cronin highlighted a few specific areas where "things veered off course" and then presented a way the Vikings can "move forward" for the 2019 season.
She pointed out the impact of losing offensive line coach Tony Sparano, who passed away unexpectedly on July 22, saying, "The run game was Sparano's 'baby.' Without him, it faltered as the Vikings struggled to generate a consistent rushing attack with an offensive line that dealt with bumps and bruises all season." Cronin wrote:
As Minnesota looks for its next offensive coordinator and potentially a new offensive line coach, Zimmer hopes to restore the "nasty" mentality his team had but seemed to lack in 2018. That edge is something players and coaches have long tied to Sparano's influence that carried from the O-line room to the rest of the offense.
Other situations Cronin looked at were the Vikings struggles to play consistently on offense, Griffen's focus on mental health; "internal strife" between Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer and John DeFilippo, who was relieved of his offensive coordinator duties after a tough loss at Seattle; and "kicking game woes" for Minnesota's special teams.
Cronin opined that it's "critical" for the Vikings bring back Dan Bailey, whom they signed in September after releasing rookie kicker Daniel Carlson.
Matt Birk to host 'Do Good Comedy Show' for charity
It's been 10 years since Matt Birk lined up at center for the Vikings, but he'll take center stage on Jan. 19 for a good cause.
Birk is set to host "Do Good Comedy Show," an evening at Union 32 Craft House that will benefit the following nonprofits:
Gridiron Greats Assistance Fund
After the Impact Fund
Minnesota Vikings Foundation
The show's lineup will include Birk, KFAN personality Paul Lambert (Meat Sauce), and comedians Pete Borchers and Tim Bedore.
Vikings Legends also are scheduled to attend, including Chuck Foreman, Chad Greenway, Jim Kleinsasser, Chris Liwienski, Brooks Bollinger and more.
Fans can purchase an individual ticket for $40 or, for $100, a VIP ticket that will include a tour of the Vikings Museum with a Vikings Legend, a football to be autographed, appetizer bar, one drink ticket and a Union 32 goodie bag.