The Minnesota Vikings defensive line is crucial if their defense is going to return to a top defense in the NFL. Vikings GM Rick Spielman made sure that unit would have a completely new look during the 2021 NFL offseason through free agency and the draft. They are also getting back a familiar face that was injured last season and an important starter that opted out of the 2020 season.
This week, we continue our weekly Vikings roster breakdown with the defensive line. This is one of the groups I am most excited about. It's is going to be a special unit after being one of the biggest liabilities for the team last season.
Danielle Hunter (DE)– There isn’t any convincing that needs to be done on Danielle Hunter's behalf. The only concern is if he can bounce back to his pre-injury form or not. All reports so far have indicated that Hunter looks good and is expected to have no limitations during camp.
Prior to missing the 2020 season with a neck injury, Danielle Hunter became the youngest player in NFL history to reach 50 sacks. He is a game-changer and is enough by himself to completely change the Vikings defensive line. The good news for the Vikings is that they are getting a lot more back than Danielle Hunter.
Michael Pierce (NT) – During the 2020 NFL Free Agency period, the Vikings brought in Michael Pierce, a big run stuffer from the Baltimore Ravens. Due to COVID-19, Pierce opted out of the 2020 NFL season.
The Vikings really missed Pierce’s presence last season. If you don’t believe me go watch the game where Alvin Kamara broke the NFL record for touchdowns in a single game. Their interior defensive line was an issue last season but should be a strength this year.
Dalvin Tomlinson (DT) – Mike Zimmer clearly took his run defense failures personally last season. Despite getting Pierce back, the Vikings still brought in Dalvin Tomlinson. Like Pierce, Tomlinson is a big run stuffer who immediately upgraded the Vikings' interior defensive line.
With Pierce and Tomlinson in the middle, it is going to be very hard for teams to run the football. Tomlinson comes to the Vikings from the New York Giants. Many Giants fans expressed how they were sad to see him go after he signed with the Vikings.
Stephen Weatherly (DE) – Weatherly spent his first 4 seasons with the Vikings. Last season he signed with the Carolina Panthers where he started a career-high 9 games. Back with the Vikings, he finds himself with the potential for a bigger role.
Many people think the Vikings need to upgrade this position prior to the season starting. I am actually okay with Weatherly. He only has to play slightly above average with Pierce, Tomlinson, and Hunter lined up next to him.
Sheldon Richardson (DT) – Sheldon Richardson is another person who spent time with the Vikings prior to last season and came back to the team. He is an interesting free agent addition to the team. He is good enough to be a starter but the Vikings are so good right now that he finds himself as a backup rotational pierce.
Richardson can also play defensive end, so the Vikings can use him or draw up some packages that utilize him more.
The rest – The Vikings drafted Patrick Jones (DE) this year and DJ Wonnum (DE) last year. Both those young players will provide amazing depth. Don’t count either of them out for a starting position either. Wonnum showed some promise last season playing alongside a struggling unit.
Another defensive lineman I’m excited about is Jaylen Twyman. I feel he is going to be a special player. Unfortunately, he was recently shot while visiting family in Washington D.C., but is expected to make a full recovery.