James Lynch Solidifying Backup NT Role
Minnesota Vikings defensive lineman James Lynch came from a 3-4 defensive system in college with Baylor. With the Vikings switching to a 3-4 defense base under new defensive coordinator Ed Donatell, he looked like a good bet to make the roster as one of the defensive ends with his experience playing the position while serving as a defensive tackle with pass-rushing ability.
However, that doesn’t seem to be the case at all.
Instead, Lynch came back to training camp looking bigger and stronger. Having bulked up, he has been taking his reps at the nose tackle position. Presumably, a decision was made with the coaching staff, who saw that as the position he could thrive in this system. It is a decision that currently looks to be a good one. Lynch is solidifying a backup NT role with impressive displays during the preseason.
Drafted back in 2020 by the Vikings in the fourth round with the 130th pick, Lynch is still only 23 years old, and the big Texan doesn’t turn 24 until January — a young player with two years of NFL experience under his belt. There is still lots of potential with Lynch, who will be a capable backup to starting NT Harrison Phillips.
He has played in 22 games already for the Vikings, including one start. In those games, he has amassed 33 tackles, two sacks, three tackles for loss, and a fumble recovery. Lynch always looked capable when he got a chance on the field during his first two seasons. Now in Year 3, he needs to show further development and not just potential.
Seemingly with a defined position and role in this new defense with his increase in physical size, which has seen him look strong and play with good leverage during the preseason, the future can be bright for Lynch. His ability to pass rush from the center is a valuable asset. With an improved all-around game, he gives the Vikings great depth on the defensive line at such an important position. If he can continue to play as he has been doing during the season, it will be a great boost for the Vikings.
It also allows the Vikings to leave Dalvin Tomlison at defensive end if Phillips misses any game time. Continuity on the defensive line is essential, and knowing Lynch can step in when required will be a massive bonus for the Vikings. How often Lynch will be necessary remains to be seen. But when he is called upon, he won’t disappoint. With the rest of the defensive linemen vying for a spot on the Vikings final 53-man roster more suited at the defensive end position, Lynch proving himself in the middle will assure he gets a roster spot and can confirm the slight position change as a positive move.
Lynch has the opportunity for a breakout season of sorts. He is unlikely to surpass Phillips as the starter, but he can prove himself as a quality depth player. Then, going into next season, the final year of his contract, he will be in the shop window. How far he can go will be up to him.