Last month we looked at some offensive players and predicted stat leaders, so now we’ll dive into the defensive end of the field.
Which Players Will Lead the Vikings in Sacks for the 2015 Season?
Adam: Everson Griffen
Everson Griffen was the leader in 2014 and it wasn’t even close. The Vikings did a lot to help their defense this offseason, particularly in the Draft, but none of those additions should do anything other than help Griffen’s pass rushing production. While the defensive tackles and linebackers will rotate to stay fresh, the pass rushing attack will again center around Griffen who might find himself in a position to be even more aggressive in 2015. Health has a ton to do with it, and Anthony Barr might take a huge step forwards, but I still see this season ending with Griffen as the sack champ of Minnesota.
Andy: Anthony Barr
Conventional wisdom says Everson Griffen will lead the way and continue to build on last year’s coming out party of 12.0 sacks, but I’m going to bet on youth and Anthony Barr. He’s a physical specimen heading into only his fourth year of playing defense and second under Mike Zimmer. Barr started slow his rookie year, but picked up a lot of steam before getting injured and finishing the season with only 4.0 sacks. I think a full-offseason and a year of good health could not only double that number, but possibly triple or quadruple.
Carl: Everson Griffen
Last season, Griffen thrived as a first year starter under new head coach Mike Zimmer. Expect more of the same again in 2015 as big No. 97 looks to continue his disruptive attack on opposing offenses. Griffen has multiple ways to find the quarterback. He does a great job keeping a tackle’s hands off of him as a he bends the edge with a fearsome combination of speed and power. Griffen can go directly at an offensive lineman with a physical bull rush, or he can set his man up with a quick spin move that’s difficult to contain. As the Vikings secondary continues to improve and force QBs to hold onto the ball a split second longer, Griffen’s active hands and constant pressure will surely wreak even more havoc in the pocket.
Austin: Everson Griffen
While I contemplated putting Anthony Barr here, I can’t imagine Everson Griffen regressing in 2015. He finished with 12 sacks in his first season under head coach Mike Zimmer and established himself as the Vikings’ best pass rusher. I love the versatility that Barr brings as a linebacker, but he won’t have the same opportunities as Griffen, who will likely rush the edge on almost all of the Vikings’ defensive snaps. Opposite Griffen, Brian Robison is set to get the majority of reps in a rotation with Scott Crichton and possibly, third-round draft pick Danielle Hunter. With a healthy contract and the backing of the organization, Griffen is set to improve upon his breakout 2014 season.
Brent: Everson Griffen
I think it has to be Everson Griffen. Coming off a great 2014, Griffen will continue to prove why he deserves the contract he was given prior to the 2014 season. I do think Anthony Barr will be put in a position to get the quarterback often and could be surprising competition for Griffen, but I don’t think he’ll have enough opportunity to stack up double-digit sacks.
Lindsey: Anthony Barr
This is a hard one, because I fully expect to see both Everson Griffen and Barr have amazing 2015 seasons. However, Barr had such a standout rookie year before his injury, and I think he’ll come back even better than before. He strikes me as the type who will return from an absence hungry to make up that time, and with a year under his belt he’s even more experienced. He’s physically built to be a sacking machine, and I think he an Griffen will each grab double-digit totals by the end of the season.