Panthers Poach Promising Vikings Defender

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The Minnesota Vikings are coming off an upset win in Week 7 over the San Francisco 49ers.

Panthers Poach Promising Vikings Defender

After climbing out of their 0-3 hole, the Vikings are now in reach of a playoff spot. A look at the upcoming schedule should give fans even more hope, with a bunch of winnable games coming up. While the majority of players on the team can celebrate the win, one guy has already moved on as he woke up with a 0-6 record.

Panthers Poach Promising Vikings Defender
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In the Monday Night Football matchup, the Vikings had some practice squad players participate in the scary matchup with the 49ers. Wideouts Trishton Jackson and N’Keal Harry suited up just like edge rusher Luiji Vilain. It was the final game for Vilain, who signed with the Carolina Panthers on Tuesday, according to Jordan Schultz on X: “The Panthers are signing OLB Luiji Vilain from the Vikings practice squad to their 53-man active roster, source tells Bleacher Report. Vilain was elevated to the active roster for last night’s game vs. the 49ers and played a handful of snaps. Now he heads to Carolina.”

The defender signed with the Vikings after the 2022 draft as an undrafted rookie out of Wake Forest. He began his college career at Michigan, where he had a rotational role but never found a way into the starting lineup with multiple standout edge rushers ahead of him. In four seasons as a Wolverine, Vilain recorded just one sack. That number skyrocketed to eight in his lone season at Wake Forest.

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The Vikings signed him and fellow outside linebacker Zach McCloud as undrafted rookies. Those are generally long shots to make the team, but the franchise invested relatively high guaranteed salaries for the duo, showing how much they valued them.

After the preseason, Vilain earned a spot on the 53-man roster while McCloud moved on. The Canadian player appeared in three games with the Vikings in his debut season and logged 34 defensive snaps and 59 on special teams. His preseason leading up to his second campaign was promising, as he ranked second on the Vikings in QB pressures and hurries and first in QB hits. Vilain also recorded one sack in the preseason opener against the Seattle Seahawks.

However, he failed to make the team and was placed on the practice squad. The elevation in Week 7 has been his only game in 2023, and he logged 14 plays on special teams. His departure leaves the Vikes with four edge rushers on the 53-man roster, Marcus Davenport on IR and Benton Whitley on the practice squad.

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The four players on the roster are Danielle Hunter, D.J. Wonnum, Patrick Jones, and Andre Carter. The latter has barely contributed so far, but that was expected. He is an undrafted rookie and needs to refine his game first. Regardless, Wonnum has been surprisingly good in the run defense, an area in which he struggled in the first three seasons of his career.

The leader in that group is Hunter, who is the league leader in sacks. He has already tackled passers nine times with the ball in their hands. Without Davenport, who will miss at least three more games, the other guys must step up like they did against the 49ers.

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Vilain can no longer be a depth option for defensive coordinator Brian Flores. Preseason standout Benton Whitley could take over that role if the Vikings need an additional body. The newly acquired Panthers defender is 25 years old and hopes to see the field with his new team after Yetur Gross-Matos was placed on IR.

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