One Guy Is Happy With Brian Flores’ Comments, and Another Is Not.

Iowa running back Tyler Goodson (15) gets tackled by Illinois defensive back Kerby Joseph (25) and defensive lineman Calvin Avery (93) during a NCAA Big Ten Conference football game, Saturday, Nov. 20, 2021, at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, Iowa. 211120 Illinois Iowa Fb 018 Jpg

James Lynch tore his ACL in Thursday’s night practice and is out for the season. A devastating blow for Lynch, who is in the final year of his rookie contract and a solid 2023 campaign, would’ve certainly helped him profit in next year’s free agency period. Now having to spend the season rehabbing, he can’t go out on the field and show his worth. It is also a test for the remaining defensive linemen. The depth will be tested.

One Guy Is Happy With Brian Flores’ Comments, and Another Is Not.

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Minnesota Vikings Defensive Coordinator Brian Flores addressed the media from the TCO Performance Center. Flores was hired in February 2023 to take over for Ed Donatel after Minnesota finished 30th in points allowed.

Defensive tackle has been one of the deeper positions on Minnesota’s roster, but it was still one of the top concerns entering the offseason. Dalvin Tomlinson left in free agency after signing a huge deal with the Cleveland Browns. The Vikings don’t have a real top guy on the line, someone scary, which is why adding one early in the draft was certainly a possibility. Harrison Phillips is the closest one to that level.

Brian Flores was asked about the state of the line depth during his press conference on Saturday, and he expressed belief in his guys, at least in some of them.

I think we got solid depth. Some veteran players like Harrison [Phillips], Bullard, Tonga, and we got some young guys like Roy, Boog [Calvin Avery]. So we got some good, young players.

Brian Flores
Vikings Keep Free Agent Defender in the Building
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Khyiris Tonga joined the Vikings halfway through the 2022 season as a practice squad call-up from the Atlanta Falcons. On the final cutdown day, the Chicago Bears parted ways with him. The Vikings were fortunate to find him as he played extremely well down the stretch, although in a small sample size. He must prove that his breakout season wasn’t a fluke and that he can do the same over the course of a full season. The Vikings will give him every opportunity possible.

Flores was also asked about the 27-year-old: “He’s strong, he’s powerful, he’s got quickness and plays with good technique. He really works on that part of it to try to control blockers. But he’s really got a quickness for a big guy that allows him to help us in the pass rush. I think he’s off to a good start.”

But besides Tonga and Phillips, who will contribute on the line? Flores mentioned Jonathan Bullard, who won the competition for a starting spot last year, a competition most folks didn’t even know existed. Fourth-rounder Jaquelin Roy is a promising young player after a solid career at LSU, but he will need some more time to develop.

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But Roy wasn’t the only rookie Flores name-dropped; he also mentioned undrafted rookie Calvin Avery. The Illinois alumnus is a large human being at 6’1″ and 343 lbs. A massive player, Avery possesses outstanding strength, exactly what a run-stuffing defensive tackle needs.

Ian Cummings from Pro Football Network wrote in his pre-draft evaluation: “Avery is well-leveraged, massive, and stout. On top of that, he brings legitimate explosiveness off the snap. He has the lateral burst to track outside runs, and the vertical burst to invade gaps as a pass rusher and channel power and torque with his length. He’s a true nose at 0 and 1-tech, who’d be a very wise high-upside investment for odd-front teams.”

the Roster Bubble
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While Flores mentioned those two, he forgot a veteran, and he is perhaps not pleased to hear that. Ross Blacklock, last year’s trade acquisition from the Houston Texans, was snubbed. The 25-year-old is quietly on the roster bubble and is in danger of not making the team after his underwhelming first season in purple.

He accepted a pay cut of roughly a third of his salary, and the Vikings would’ve possibly already cut him if he hadn’t. The team converted that money into incentives he can earn by playing, but if Flores doesn’t even mention him as a depth piece on the defensive line, he might be in trouble.

It should be noted, however, that Dean Lowry wasn’t mentioned either, and he will certainly be on the team as a free-agent signing. Sophomore Esezi Otomewo, Sheldon Day, T.J. Smith, and Junior Aho are the other linemen under contract.

It remains to be seen if Flores name-dropped the top guys, including Avery, and forgot Lowry or if he just cited a handful of players without actually thinking about it, and Blacklock is still in the mix.

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