Vikings Defender Is a Bounce-Back Candidate

Jun 8, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings defensive lineman Armon Watts (96) performs a drill during mandatory mini camp at TCO Performance Center. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Vikings need a quick defensive turnaround in the 2023 season to be a competitive football team. Winning 13 games with a poor defensive group can’t be repeated and is unrealistic. For that reason, Vikings GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah changed a bunch of things on that side of the ball.

Vikings Defender Is a Bounce-Back Candidate

Highly regarded defensive coordinator Brian Flores took over as the skipper for the dismissed Ed Donatell, who held the job for only one season. But the organization didn’t stop there and invested draft picks and free agent money into the defense. Signing Byron Murphy was a big deal to have at least one reliable cornerback in the secondary next to some unproven guys.

Vikings Defender Is a Bounce-Back Candidate
Nov 7, 2021; New Orleans, Louisiana, USA; New Orleans Saints defensive end Marcus Davenport (92) is blocked by Atlanta Falcons offensive tackle Jake Matthews (70) during the second half at the Caesars Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports.

The Vikings also added edge rusher Marcus Davenport to the roster, and he is viewed as a bounce-back candidate. He made Joel Corry’s list of ten defensive bounce-back candidates, featured on CBS Sports:

Davenport didn’t live up to his potential after the Saints traded two first-round picks to move up to take him 14th overall in the 2018 NFL Draft. That was partially because of injury. Davenport played 63 of a possible 82 games during his five seasons with the Saints. He had a career-high 9.5 sacks in 11 games during the 2021 season. While playing on a $9.553 million fifth-year option last year, he only had one-half sack in 15 games but 34 quarterback pressures (combined sacks, quarterback hurries and quarterback hits), according to PFF.

Davenport was the beneficiary of a relatively weak group of edge rushers in free agency. He signed a lucrative one-year deal for $13 million where $10 million was fully guaranteed with the Vikings. Another season like Davenport had in 2022 will put him right back in the one-year “prove it” deal territory, but for a lot less money.

The edge rusher is under pressure to perform in 2023. He possesses absurd potential, which is why the Saints traded up in the draft to get him. Not many folks at his size can run a sub 4.6 40-yard dash. Injuries slowed him down in the five seasons, but he has still been a solid defensive end, just not good enough to warrant a couple of first-rounders spent on him, and he never got rid of that price tag.

Oct 2, 2022; London, United Kingdom; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) is pressured by New Orleans Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan (94) and defensive end Marcus Davenport (92) during an NFL International Series game at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

In Minnesota, his price is a different one. He didn’t cost draft picks but cap money. General manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah secured his rights for a one-year deal, meaning the risk is limited to one season. If he doesn’t work out, they will move on from him and can act like nothing has ever happened.

But if he works out and lives up to his potential, the defense will be on another level. That is where the idea of signing him becomes fun. He will line up opposite Danielle Hunter, who will draw much of the offense’s attention so Davenport can feast.

Jan 3, 2021; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA; Carolina Panthers quarterback P.J. Walker (6) throws an interception as he is pressured by New Orleans Saints defensive end Marcus Davenport (92) in the fourth quarter at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Brian Flores is a specialist at isolating his top defenders in one-on-one matchups by drawing up blitzes, and Davenport can show his athleticism and pass-rush prowess to get to the quarterback. The former Saints defender is also one of the best run-stopping edge rushers in the NFL, which can help prevent something like the disaster in the second preseason game from happening. The backup defense allowed an awful 281 rushing yards.

Davenport can be a key towards an improved defense, and the Vikings need him to stay healthy. If he can play at an okay level, the deal was a wash, but if he can live up to his full potential, it was a huge win for the Vikes.

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