One Vikings Theory Altered Monday with Brian Asamoah’s Return

Defender on the Road
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The Minnesota Vikings welcomed a handful of prominent players back to practice Monday, as Jalen Nailor (WR), Jordan Addison (WR), and Brian Asamoah (LB) were in Eagan at training camp.

The Vikings host joint practices with the Arizona Cardinals this week, culminating in a preseason game this Saturday.

One Vikings Theory Altered Monday with Brian Asamoah’s Return

Minnesota’s offense can return closer to form with Nailor and Addison back in the house, while Asamoah’s return pumps the brakes on a popular Vikings theory — the probability of rookie undrafted linebacker Ivan Pace Jr. starting in Week 1.

Altered Monday
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The UDFA has taken the Vikings summer by storm, climbing the depth chart with the snap of two fingers when training camp kicked off a few weeks ago. He looked like ‘the real deal’ at camp during the first week, running with second-teamers, and before too long, Pace Jr. joined the first unit. And when Asamoah was injured, seas parted for a full look at the University of Cincinnati alumnus.

The steam regarding Pace Jr. has billowed so profusely that some Vikings faithful have speculated a starting job as early as September 10th, or Week 1, for the young defender.

Ivan Pace Jr. of Colerain High School wins boys athlete of the year award during their Sports Awards, sponsored by TriHealth, on Thursday, April 18, 2019, at Cincinnati Music Hall in Cincinnati. © Albert Cesare / The Enquirer.

That could still come true, yet with Asamoah back in the saddle, it’s a bit more likely that Pace Jr. earns a backup assignment out of the gate. Asamoah’s ailment did not turn out to be long-term, he’s listed as a starting linebacker on the depth chart, and he now has three weeks to get back in the swing of operations before the regular season.

Minnesota’s LB room should showcase Jordan Hicks and Asamoah as starters — unless the first-but-unofficial depth chart was incorrect.

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Fans don’t have to worry about Pace Jr.’s overall workload, though. He’ll very much be in the mix for Brian Flores’ defense, evidenced by head coach Kevin O’Connell’s words last week.

O’Connell was asked to describe Pace Jr.’s impact on Flores’ new defense, and he replied, “Really in every facet of the game, how we’re playing defense, the communication, pressure, no pressure. Has the athleticism to run sideline to sideline, maybe cancel out some mistakes, if we lose a gap here and there, he’s shown to be able to get off blocks for a guy that, when I watched his tape in college, he was almost unblockable, and that’s translating in a lot of ways.”

big week for
Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports.

The Vikings defense ranked 30th in points allowed last year, an odd statistic because the franchise somehow won 13 games and an NFC North title.

“It could be a great look for a play, getting a lineman up to him on the second level, and he somehow avoids that block and makes the play while doing his job. So he doesn’t, you know, undress any other facet of a defensive call. He did great with the green dot the other day in Seattle. So really, gold stars all the way around right now for Ivan, and as I’ve challenged him to do, you’re not just trying to compete to make our team. Let’s see where you can go and possibly help us win football games from the jump,” O’Connell concluded about Pace Jr.

Monitoring an Asamoah-Pace Jr. roster battle for the next three weeks will grab fans’ attention, but it’s more likely that Asamoah will keep the job to start the season, with Pace Jr. filling in the reservist gaps.

Asamoah fetched a 78.8 Pro Football Focus grade as a rookie.

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).

All statistics provided by Pro Football Reference / Stathead; all contractual information provided by