CAMP BATTLES: The Pass Rushers

The Vikings return all 4 defensive ends from the 2012 squad. The top of the depth chart is loaded with talent but Rick Spielman still signed guys that could steal that final roster spot away from D’Aundre Reed. Reed was a 7th round pick by the Vikings in 2011 but has yet to earn a single tackle in 2 regular seasons with the team. As a matter-of-fact he has collected only 1 solo tackles in the preseason games. The writing might be on the wall for D’Aundre because the Vikings signed free agent Lawrence Jackson from Detroit in the off season. Jackson was a 1st round pick by the Seattle Seahawks in the 2008 NFL draft. Jackson started 51 games at USC… Phillip Rivers is the only other NCAA player to accomplish that statistic. The 6 year pro is listed at 6’4’ 271 pounds and has played in 69 NFL games. Jackson has 19.5 sacks and 141 total tackles in his career. Yea, I would say that’s and upgrade.

The Vikings also signed undrafted rookie free agent Marquis Jackson from Portland State. Last season Marquis had 36 tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks. Prior to Portland State, he racked up 14 sacks and 36 TFL in 2 seasons with Texas Southern. Marquis has terrific movement skills and explodes at the point of attack. At one time he was highly rated player that just didn’t play with consistent urgency in 2012. USC had interest in Marquis, but academic problems stop him from becoming a Trojan.

At the bottom of the defensive end depth chart is undrafted free agents Collins Ukwu and George Johnson. The good news is the Vikings will not need to play Jared Allen, Brian Robison or Everson Griffen much in preseason so those 2 might see some playing time. The bad news is Ukwu and Johnson are long shots with the Vikings.

At the top of the depth chart the Vikings boast one of the most feared pass rushers in the league, Jared Allen. The 5 time Pro Bowl superstar has 117 career sacks. In 2011, Allen had 22 sacks, a Vikings franchise record, and this year the NFL sack record could be next on his radar. LDE Brian Robison and backup Everson Griffen know how to get to the QB as well; they helped the Vikings as a team finish 2012 with 44 sacks tied for 5th in the NFL.

[Quick Note From Adam:  I personally think that there will be more competition at the top of the depth chart than many suspect.  I wouldn’t be surprised if Mr. Griffen starts to push Mr. Robison for playing time, and perhaps in a very significant way.  Carry on, Carl.]

This unit will be near the top of the NFL sack leader board again this year. And usually if you can put pressure on quarterbacks you can force interceptions. Surprisingly, that wasn’t the case in 2012, the Vikings picked off 10 passes to finish 27th in that category. Most fans think the Vikings success depends on how Ponder develops. That maybe true, but I believe the young secondary needs to develop and improve in the take away department if this team wants to win the NFC North. It all starts with putting pressure on the quarterback… and the Vikings defensive ends are getting the job done.

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Carl Knowles

Carl Knowles (Contributor) is a former member of the Professional Bowler Association and an avid lifelong Vikings fan. When he is not bowling you can find him on websites and forum pages sharing his creative insight and enthusiasm for the Minnesota Vikings any chance he gets. Carl was a Phoenix Institute of Technology and Purdue University standout who currently enjoys the challenge of being a graphic director in the printing business. You can follow him on twitter @carlknowles_vt.

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