The Vikings Should Feature 1 Rookie after the Eagles Debacle

Opportunity Knocks
Mar 2, 2023; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Louisiana State defensive lineman Jaquelin Roy (DL14) participates in the NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Because the other three teams in the NFC North lost their matchups on Sunday, Minnesota’s 0-2 record suddenly doesn’t feel that bad anymore. The purple team is just one win out of the division lead to defend the title for the first time in over a decade. But the Vikings must fix some problems. The rushing attack is a disaster, six fumbles in two games is absurd, and the run defense was badly beaten by the Eagles in Week 2.

The Vikings Should Feature 1 Rookie after the Eagles Debacle

The Eagles have one of the elite running games in the NFL. A strong offensive line, decent running backs, and an extra rushing threat at quarterback form an unstoppable force, and the Vikings were their latest victims.

The Vikings Should Feature 1 Rookie after the Eagles Debacle
Sep 14, 2023; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Philadelphia Eagles running back D’Andre Swift (0) runs for a touchdown past Minnesota Vikings linebacker Ivan Pace Jr. (40) during the fourth quarter at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Philly rushed for a ridiculous number of 259 yards, 231 more than Alexander Mattison and Ty Chandler combined. Defensive coordinator Brian Flores had an interesting approach, featuring a light lineup on many plays. The reason for that is to have faster guys on the field to combat the passing game but also to limit Jalen Hurts’ rushing potential.

A common lineup had Harrison Phillips as the lone defensive lineman, with Danielle Hunter and another pass-rusher, three linebackers, and five defensive backs. That made life easy for the Eagles. A possible solution is to simply play heavier personnel and focus more on the rushing defense.

Minnesota lost defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson in free agency when he signed a huge contract with the Cleveland Browns, an agreement the Vikings couldn’t match. Phillips stepped into his spot as the top defensive tackle, supported by defensive end Jonathan Bullard and signing Dean Lowry. Khyiris Tonga has logged only 21 snaps so far in the 2023 season, a surprisingly low number.

Sep 10, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Sean Tucker (44) runs the ball as Minnesota Vikings linebacker Jordan Hicks (58) and defensive tackle Harrison Phillips (97) make the tackle during the game at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Tonga and Phillips are two of the three defenders with over 300 lbs on the roster. The third is rookie Jaquelin Roy, who could be a potential solution for an improved rushing defense. More mass upfront can help solidify the trenches and get some push.

Roy is yet to make his NFL debut, as he was inactive in both games. The Vikings drafted him in the fifth round out of LSU. General manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah traded up for the defensive tackle, indicating that the team was really high on him.

Nov 26, 2022; College Station, Texas, USA; LSU Tigers defensive tackle Jaquelin Roy (99) in action during the game between the Texas A&M Aggies and the LSU Tigers at Kyle Field. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports.

Keith Sanchez from The Draft Network opined about Roy’s run defense pre-draft: “As a run defender, Roy uses his athleticism to be able to quickly get into gaps and present penetration to potentially disrupt a play. Roy also shows the ability to play well against zone run plays. On plays where offensive linemen are trying to block him, he does a good job of maintaining leverage and prevents the offensive lineman from being able to reach-block him and place an effective block.”

Roy missed the first two preseason games and a bunch of training camp practices, putting him behind the eight-ball. Before and after his injury, he received some reps with the first-team defense. The rookie will not single-handedly fix the run defense, but he can be a part of the solution.

The next opponent, the Los Angeles Chargers, runs a pass-heavy offense behind star quarterback Justin Herbert. Running back Austin Ekeler’s status is in doubt because of an injury. It remains to be seen if the Vikings’ run defense looked as bad as it did because the Eagles are awesome at running the football or if the Vikings just can’t stop the run. Nevertheless, there wouldn’t be an excuse if the Chargers dominated the line of scrimmage. Roy’s NFL debut should come closer.

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