One Vikings Starter Hardly Played vs. Buccaneers

Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

The Minnesota Vikings released an “unofficial” depth chart last week before their Week 1 showdown with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers — and they weren’t kidding about unofficial.

One Vikings Starter Hardly Played vs. Buccaneers

Why? Well, starting linebacker Brian Asamoah barely played on defense against Tampa Bay.

The second-year defender played two defensive snaps and 12 special teams transactions during the loss to the Buccaneers, a totally unforeseen development because the man was called a starter on the depth chart.

Starter Hardly Played
Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

For context, these were the defensive snaps per player for Week 1:

  • Byron Murphy: 68
  • Camryn Bynum: 67
  • Jordan Hicks: 66
  • Harrison Smith: 65
  • Akayleb Evans: 62
  • Harrison Phillips: 60
  • Danielle Hunter: 58
  • Josh Metellus: 57
  • D.J. Wonnum: 54
  • Ivan Pace Jr.: 46
  • Dean Lowry: 46
  • Patrick Jones: 40
  • Jonathan Bullard: 29
  • Mekhi Blackmon: 15
  • Khyiris Tonga: 9
  • Troy Dye: 2
  • Brian Asamoah: 2
  • Theo Jackson: 1
  • Benton Whitley: 1
Young LB Says
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Instead of Asamoah, the undrafted rookie linebacker, Ivan Pace Jr., absorbed “Asamoah’s snaps,” in addition to multiple safeties folded into the gameplan like Josh Metellus. Had the Vikings won — they should have, according to oddsmakers — Asamoah’s relative absence would be a nothingburger. But losses always reveal warts.

Head coach Kevin O’Connell said about the linebacking rotation, “Yeah, I know the plan was there was going to be a little bit of a rotation there, so I’ll have to look at it. Keeping up with the snap counts play-to-play, maybe one day I’ll be able to do that. But I’ll take a look at it, and I think we feel really good about kind of a three-man grouping right there.”

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It is unclear if Asamoah on the bench indicates a 2023 trend — which would represent a full promotion for Pace Jr. — or a Week 1 outlier. The team will provide more clarity in three days when it travels to Philadelphia for a Week 2 date with the Eagles, a team that defeated the New England Patriots in Foxboro on Sunday.

“But Ivan Pace had earned the right to be on the field. Brian had to deal with an injury through camp, and those reps were really valuable. We still feel great about Jordan (Hicks), I.P. and Brian and Troy (Dye) also with his ability to step in there, made some good plays on teams. So that inside backer group is a strength for us,” O’Connell added.

Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports.

Asamoah will likely be interwoven in the defense before too long, but the lesson is to always take a Week 1 depth chart with a grain of salt.

The Vikings allowed just 242 yards to the Buccaneers on Sunday despite the loss — their lowest total in a game since 2020.

Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sal Spice. His Vikings obsession dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ Basset Hounds, and The Doors (the band).

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