While each NFL team is looking for bright, young stars on its roster, they also know that success can’t happen without contributions and leadership from veteran players, too.
And if you’re looking at the Vikings, safety Harrison Smith and defensive tackle Linval Joseph certainly fall into that latter category.
Both players were recently named to the All Over-30 Team compiled by Andy Benoit of The MMQB. The list highlighted the longevity and success of players around the NFL.
The pool of eligible players was small. Not counting special teamers, there are, on average, about seven players per team over 30 years old, which makes for 225 players leaguewide, and about 90 of them warranted consideration for this team. The point: the NFL players who make it into their 30s tend to be the really, really GOOD players — which seems obvious now that we’ve stopped to consider it. It is easier to find a star over 30 than a role player over 30.
Benoit went with Joseph at defensive tackle, as “Big Goon” is entering his sixth season in Purple and 10th in the NFL. A two-time Pro Bowler, Joseph has a dozen sacks with the Vikings but is also known for being an anchor in the trenches against the run.
Benoit paired Joseph, who is 30, with Jacksonville’s Calais Campbell at defensive tackle because he wanted “a pure nose shade tackle for run defense on early downs. Offenses will have nightmares dealing with Joseph’s and Campbell’s size together.”
Smith, meanwhile, has been to four consecutive Pro Bowls. The former first-round pick is the Vikings all-time franchise leader with four pick-sixes.
Benoit put Smith with safety Earl Thomas, the longtime Seahawks standout who is now with Baltimore.
Thomas and Smith are still All-Pro caliber, simple as that. Smith’s presnap awareness allows us to disguise coverages.
The Vikings currently have six players who are at least 30 years old — Kirk Cousins, Joseph, Smith, Riley Reiff, Dan Bailey and Everson Griffen.
Weatherly could see larger role in 2019
Stephen Weatherly was perhaps one of the biggest surprises of the 2018 season, as the former seventh-round pick started six games and had the first three sacks of his career.
Andrew Krammer of the Star Tribune recently noted that Weatherly’s strong play could lead to an even bigger role in 2019, even with fellow defensive ends Griffen and Danielle Hunter expected to be the starters.
Krammer noted that Weatherly contributed against both the run and the pass in 2018.
His eight run stops tied Texans star J.J. Watt and trailed only seven other NFL edge defenders in that span. Weatherly’s 14 quarterback pressures (three sacks) put him in the league’s top 30, according to Pro Football Focus.
Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer said earlier this week that he expects a larger role for Weatherly, as Zimmer said the 25-year-old’s confidence is evident on the field.
Krammer recently caught up with Weatherly, who said the lessons he learned from retired defensive end Brian Robison are paying off now.
It appears Weatherly might play a similar role as Robison once did. During practice this week, Weatherly played defensive end and stand-up interior pass rusher in varying formations.
Griffen, the three-time Pro Bowler, has retained his starting role in spring practices after taking a pay cut to stay in Minnesota. However, Weatherly — entering his contract season — is preparing to play more.
“This time of year isn’t about working on your perfect move,” Weatherly said. “It’s about taking your second and third move and getting them up on caliber with your first move.”
Weatherly, who has played 33 career games, forced the fumble in Week 5 against Philadelphia that Joseph returned 64 yards for a touchdown.