The Vikings are returning a core group from their 2016 defensive unit for the 2017 season.
With the exception of Chad Greenway retiring, Minnesota has maintained its key linebackers and defensive linemen while also adding additional players for depth through free agency and the NFL Draft.
Gregg Rosenthal recently ranked the top 12 teams by the strength of their front sevens on defense. He placed the Vikings at fourth-best in the league behind the Texans, Seahawks and Panthers, who were first, second and third, respectively. According to Rosenthal, the Vikings have a "balanced and versatile group with few weaknesses." He wrote:
The Vikings don't have the marquee names in lights like most of the teams on this list. They do have a balanced and versatile group with few weaknesses. The young linebacker duo of [Anthony] Barr and [Eric] Kendricks can excel on any down, covering receivers, stopping the run or rushing the passer […] [Defensive end Danielle] Hunter, like his two young linebacker teammates, has the potential to break out if he hasn't already. [Linval] Joseph and [Everson] Griffen were both given eye-opening, monster contracts by Minnesota, which now seem like forward-looking bargains.
Peter King: Dalvin Cook will be a top-5 RB in 2017
There's been lots of speculations on how teams will fare in 2017 following various roster moves this offseason.
Peter King of MMQB.com posted the second half of his NFL power rankings on Tuesday, and for each team, he made a brief prediction. For the Vikings, he wrote the following:
By Halloween, Cook will be a top-five NFL back.
King opined that much of the Vikings success will depend on if they can improve their run game after struggling in 2016. He ranked Minnesota No. 16 out of 32 teams, explaining that he placed the Vikings in the middle of the pack because they "could go in either direction." He wrote:
*Classic team that could go in either direction. If Sam Bradford flourishes in Pat Shurmur's system, if Cook confirms his high first-round talent with an impact year, if the Vikings can build up a strong playoff résumé entering a brutal post-Thanksgiving stretch, and if young defensive stalwarts like Danielle Hunter can continue their ascension, this will be a playoff team. Big ifs, but all certainly possible. One look in the rear-view mirror here. Kudos to [Vikings General Manager] Rick Spielman for making the tough call last Labor Day weekend and trading a 2017 first-round pick for Bradford. *
Bradford delivered in up-and-down fashion, typical of his career, but there was no passer in this draft putting up numbers like Bradford's in 2016: 71.6 percent accuracy, 20 touchdowns to five interceptions, 99.3 rating. Having a quarterback is why the Vikings will contend.
PFF notes pressures by Everson Griffen
As Everson Griffen enters his seventh NFL season, he's coming off a season in which he recorded 48 tackles (36 solo) and 8.0 sacks, good for second on the team behind Danielle Hunter (12.5).
According to Pro Football Focus' tallies, Griffen also led the way on right side pass rushes (516) and on right-side quarterback pressures (68). He finished ahead of Giants defensive end Olivier Vernon, who had 63 quarterback pressures from the right side. The next closest was Panthers defensive end Mario Addison, with 50.