Vikings Defender Draws “Most Underrated” Tag

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The Minnesota Vikings will have a bunch of new faces on the defensive side of the ball in the second season under the watch of defensive coordinator Brian Flores. Jordan Hicks and Danielle Hunter are the two most prominent departures. Pass-rushers D.J. Wonnum and Marcus Davenport left just like defensive linemen Khyiris Tonga and Dean Lowry.

Vikings Defender Draws “Most Underrated” Tag

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To fill the vacated slots, general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah acquired some help. The most exciting hires are undoubtedly the three edge defenders Jonathan Greenard, Andrew Van Ginkel, and first-rounder Dallas Turner.

Hicks’ replacement Blake Cashman was signed in free agency. The Minnesota native enjoyed a breakout season with the Texans last year. His arrival has been flying under the radar, but he will contribute significantly in the upcoming season.

Vikings Defender Draws "Most Underrated" Tag
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He will line up next to last year’s rookie sensation Ivan Pace. His unlikely emergence as one of the team’s bright spots was fun to watch, and he surely wants to build on his strong performance. Zoltán Buday from PFF listed the undrafted player from 2023 as Minnesota’s most underrated player.

Pace burst onto the scene as an undrafted rookie in 2023 and was the third-highest-graded linebacker in the entire NFL after three weeks. While his performance tailed off a bit and his playing time was reduced, he remained very productive on pass plays. Pace was one of just two linebackers to earn PFF grades over 77.0 for both coverage and pass rush, the other being Fred Warner.

Zoltán Buday

Pace entered the NFL draft expecting to be drafted, so it was quite shocking for him to be available in the UDFA pool. He then agreed to join the Vikings, which was a wonderful decision for two reasons. The Vikings had an opening at linebacker following the release of Eric Kendricks, and Flores’ tendency to blitz on every other play was a perfect fit for Pace, who excels in that role.

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In training camp, Pace started to run some reps with the starters, and folks began to wonder if he had a chance to snatch the second starting spot next to Hicks. Because of Flores’ versatile defense, he ultimately started in only 11 games but played in 17, and he was on the field on 706 defensive snaps, the tenth most among Vikings defenders.

The good news is that he didn’t just play a lot but also well. He tabulated 102 tackles (63 solo tackles), forced and recovered one fumble, and intercepted a pass while wreaking havoc in the backfield. Pace registered 2.5 sacks and two tackles for loss.

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It remains to be seen how his snap count changes in his sophomore campaign, but it is hard to envision the number to drop. His only competition is 2022 third-rounder Brian Asamoah, who slowed down last season because of a shoulder injury, and newcomer Cashman.

The latter should be expected to slide into Hicks’ full-time role, and some snaps might go to safety Josh Metellus when Flores wants to play with three safeties but only one linebacker. Regardless, Pace will play a large role on defense. His excellent play against the run and as a pass-rusher, while also showing the ability to drop into coverage, guarantees him a solid snap share.

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