View the top 30 images of Vikings defensive line from the 2014 season.
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — The Vikings defensive line incorporated switches in personnel to implement a shift in philosophy in its first year under Head Coach Mike Zimmer.
Everson Griffen emerged in his fifth pro season and first as a starter as a player who can wreak havoc on a quarterback, chase down a running back and affect the way opponents approach the game.
Griffen led the Vikings with a career-high 12 sacks, following each with a signature "Sack Daddy" celebration dance. He was credited by Vikings coaches with career highs of tackles (75), tackles for loss (21) and quarterback hurries (70).
"I feel like I did well," Griffen said as the season came to a close. "There's still room for a lot of improvement. This is just the beginning. It's my first year starting and this is the beginning for me. I'm going to come out and be better next year."
Griffen showed he was ready to handle the role that opened when Jared Allen left for Chicago via free agency, and played opposite Brian Robison, who handled multiple tasks and led teammates to trusting the system and rushing as a collective unit.
The Vikings used a combination of free agency and recent drafts on the interior of the offensive line when Kevin Williams departed for Seattle in free agency. Minnesota signed Linval Joseph to play nose tackle, and veteran Tom Johnson to provide depth. Joseph was strong against the run and did necessary things that don't always show up in the box scores. Johnson, meanwhile, showed an ability to rush the passer that he refined when he played in the Canadian Football League* *to record a career high 6.5 sacks.
Sharrif Floyd, a first-round pick in 2013 and the first defensive tackle chosen by the Vikings in the first round since Williams in 2003, started 11 of the 14 games he played and was a force when he wasn't dealing with injury. The Vikings also received productive minutes from 2014 seventh-round pick Shamar Stephen at defensive tackle.
Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman recently said during an interview for Beyond the Gridiron that he was impressed by the way in which the coaching staff worked with a young roster and players who received increased roles and expectations.
"They do an unbelievable job, as far as teaching and developing guys and teaching what the scheme is and what's expected of them and working together as one unit and not as individuals," Spielman said. "We gave (Griffen) a big contract when he was not really known or hadn't produced, and he took advantage of that opportunity. Sharrif Floyd has really come into his own this year and you're starting to see the difference from where he was a year ago."
The chart below includes statistics of the defensive line (tackles and quarterback hurries are coaches' tally):