The Luiji Hype Train Choo-Chooed in Seattle

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A handful of Minnesota Vikings jumped off the page during the first preseason game at the Seattle Seahawks on Thursday night.

The Luiji Hype Train Choo-Chooed in Seattle

Jordan Addison made a couple of nifty catches, although one was erroneously ruled incomplete. UDFA linebacker Ivan Pace Jr. proved his training camp stardom translated to the preseason. Ty Chandler rumbled for 70 yards from scrimmage. Greg Joseph nailed a 54-yard field goal. Cornerback NaJee Thompson was a special teams god. And veteran nose tackle Khyiris Tonga disrupted operations upfront for Minnesota’s defense.

And then there was Luiji Vilain, who absolutely looked like he belonged on a 53-man roster when September rolls around.

The Luiji Hype Train
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Vilain tallied 3 tackles. 3 QB hits, and a sack versus the Seahawks reservist players, a commendable effort for a player relatively unknown to casual Vikings fans. Minnesota will need credible EDGE depth behind Danielle Hunter and Marcus Davenport this season, and Vilain, at least in one preseason game, appears like a candidate for the assignment.

Here’s some of the tale of the tape:

Vilain played 34 defensive snaps for the 2022 Vikings in three games after joining the organization last year via undrafted free agency. He was the 2022 version of the aforementioned Pace Jr. and rookie defender Andre Carter II.

Will Vikings 'Pass-Rushing Gem' Make the Team?
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And here’s another Vilain highlight from Thursday night — that’s him rushing Drew Lock and altering the pass:

Minnesota revealed its first-but-unofficial depth chart on Monday, and here was the lay of the land at outside linebacker:

OLB1: Danielle Hunter
OLB2: Marcus Davenport
OLB3: Patrick Jones II
OLB4: D.J. Wonnum
OLB5: Luiji Vilain
OLB6: Benton Whitley
OLB7: Andre Carter II
OLB8: Curtis Weaver

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The Vikings will likely keep five outside linebackers on the final regular season depth chart, meaning Vilain is directly on the bubble. And if one believes in the Andre Carter II steam, Vilain must fight extra valiantly to snag a roster spot.

Too, surprise roster cuts can never be ruled out. In theory, Minnesota could keep Vilain over D.J. Wonnum, who enters the final year of his contract in 2023. Vilain also has the advantage of personally getting unearthed by general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah, whereas Wonnum was a Rick Spielman draft pick from 2022.

Michigan Wolverines’ Luiji Vilain rushes Wisconsin Badgers quarterback Graham Mertz during the first half at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Saturday, Nov. 14, 2020. © Kirthmon F. Dozier via Imagn Content Services, LLC.

Vilain was marvelous at Wake Forest in 2021, tallying 8 sacks and 9 tackles for loss in 12 games. Before that, he was recruited by and played at Michigan.

The Vikings and 31 NFL teams must trim rosters from 90 players to 53 on August 29th.

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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