Combative Vikings Rookie Draws National Attention

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A loss is always a disappointment for fans, coaches, and athletes, but it is much less of a factor in the preseason, where player evaluation and position battles are in focus. Rookie Jordan Addison looked every bit like the star that was advertised when the Vikings drafted him. Sophomores Luiji Vilain and Ty Chandler showed a lot of upside, while Lewis Cine and Ed Ingram are still struggling.

Combative Vikings Rookie Draws National Attention

Combative Vikings Rookie Draws National Attention
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One Vikings defender, however, played himself into the focus of national pundits, and it was outstanding undrafted rookie Ivan Pace. The linebacker just doesn’t stop making plays. Head coach Kevin O’Connell had high praise for him, and defensive coordinator Brian Flores was probably happy with his new up-and-coming star.

Pace is a player living in the backfield, as he loves to blitz and play aggressively as a downhill enforcer; trying to blow up runs by simply taking out guards with 100 lbs more is his thing.

Vikings fans, coaches, and Pace’s teammates have already raved about him for a couple of weeks, but now he has caught the eye of basically every NFL analyst in the nation. He recorded six tackles in his first contest.

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Pace continuing to make noise was one of the three Vikings takeaways from Bleacher Report’s Kristopher Knox: “While new defensive coordinator Brian Flores won’t like the penalty, he should love the way Pace (four tackles, two assists) was all over the field on Thursday. The 22-year-old was frequently around the ball carrier or taking on blockers. Flores is looking to bring a newfound energy to a Vikings defense that ranked 31st overall and 28th in points allowed last season. Pace’s skill set and play style fits perfectly into that plan, and if he can learn to play with a semblance of control, he’ll have a great chance to make the active roster.”

CBS Sports named ten rookies to watch during the preseason. Nine of them were first-rounders or early second-round picks except one: Ivan Pace.

Pace is built like a bulldog but accelerates like a greyhound when chasing the football. At 5-10 and 231 pounds, he registered a gargantuan 262 tackles, 34.5 tackles for loss, and 14 sacks in his final two collegiate seasons, at Miami of Ohio then Cincinnati. He stacks and sheds like he’s 6-4, 240, is a reliable in-space tackler, and made plenty of plays on the football in coverage in college.

I need to see if the massive camp buzz for Pace translates to the preseason for this already super-fun underdog story. Unsurprisingly Pace led the Vikings with four tackles and two assisted tackles in the exhibition opener against the Seahawks.

Chris Trapasso
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ESPN’s Chris Reid praised the linebacker on Twitter with a short video of excellent run defense.

With all the buzz coming from training camp, the praise he gets from Vikings coaches and teammates, and the performance in the first preseason game, it would be shocking if Pace won’t make the 53-man roster.

Regardless, it is still likely that Brian Asamoah and Jordan Hicks, who both didn’t play, will be the two starting linebackers. Nevertheless, there’s a good chance that Brian Flores will give fans a heavy dose of his rookie in certain packages, as he is a total game-changer who can blow up plays in both the running and the passing game. The Vikings found a gem despite passing on him six times.

Janik Eckardt is a football fan who likes numbers and stats. The Vikings became his favorite team despite their quarterback at the time, Christian Ponder. He is a walking soccer encyclopedia, loves watching sitcoms, and Classic rock is his music genre of choice. Follow him on Twitter if you like the Vikings: @JanikEckardt