Vikings Free Agent Addition Is a Terrific Fit

Miami Dolphins linebacker Andrew Van Ginkel (43) and defensive tackle Zach Sieler (92) celebrate a sack against the New York Giants during the second half of an NFL game at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, October 8, 2023. © Jim Rassol / USA TODAY NETWORK.

Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah is the man of the hour in Minnesota as he prepares to draft a quarterback on April 25. He has acquired additional draft capital in 2024 to facilitate a trade into the top five of the draft order. Furthermore, solid reviews have drawn his free agency additions, featuring a bunch of defensive contributors and RB Aaron Jones, who is an immediate upgrade on offense.

Vikings Free Agent Addition Is a Terrific Fit

Vikings Addition Is a Great Fit
Miami Dolphins linebacker Andrew Van Ginkel (43) and linebacker David Long Jr., rear, celebrate a sack against the Dallas Cowboys during the first half of an NFL game at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Dec. 24, 2023. © Jim Rassol / USA TODAY NETWORK.

Defensive coordinator Brian Flores is planning a defense that includes some reinforcement. The defensive personnel is looking a lot better than it did when free agency was beginning, and it might even be better than last year despite the exits of star pass-rusher Danielle Hunter, his running mates Marcus Davenport and D.J. Wonnum, as well as linebacker Jordan Hicks.

To offset those losses, Adofo-Mensah has acquired numerous new defenders. Blake Cashman — the Minnesota native who had a breakout season last year — will take over for Hicks, while Shaquill Griffin is a veteran addition to an otherwise young cornerback group.

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Jonathan Greenard and Andrew Van Ginkel are the starting edge defenders, replacing the departing trio at the valuable position. The latter, a former student under Flores in Miami, has been nominated as one of the five best scheme fits in free agency, according to Dalton Wasserman from Pro Football Focus.

Vikings defensive coordinator Brian Flores runs a unique style of defense. He blitzes more than anybody and finds players who can fluctuate between multiple roles. Among those versatile players are a long line of stand-up edge rushers like Rob Ninkovich, Kyle Van Noy, T.J. Watt, and Alex Highsmith.

Another player of that ilk is Andrew Van Ginkel, whom Flores drafted back in 2019 and is coming off his best season as a pro. The two reunite in Minnesota as Flores continues to quickly rebuild the Vikings defense. Van Ginkel finished 2023 with an elite grading profile

Only Trey Hendrickson, an elite pass-rusher in his own right, finished with a higher PFF pass-rush grade than Van Ginkel when lined up as an outside linebacker.  Van Ginkel has also proven he can drop into coverage from that spot as he played the second-most coverage snaps of any edge defender last season, earning an excellent 87.3 PFF coverage grade in the process.

Brian Flores’ ideal defense involves players who possess both talent and versatility. His familiarity with Van Ginkel brought him a player with plenty of both. Minnesota still has needs at defensive tackle and cornerback, but the Van Ginkel signing adds a dimension to their front seven that they were lacking last season.

Flores selected Van Ginkel in 2019 and taught him his defense for three seasons, making him the perfect player for a Flores scheme. So, the praise for the signing isn’t surprising.

Vikings in Last 2
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As Wasserman mentioned, the DC needs versatility and talent, and Van Ginkel brings both. Just last season, he tabulated 6 sacks, 53 QB pressures, and 32 QB hurries despite sharing the snaps with Jaelan Phillips (for 8 games) and Bradley Chubb.

The new added wrinkle to Flores’ defense is that Van Ginkel amassed 147 snaps in coverage (497 in his career), logging a coverage grade of 87.3. Just for comparison, former Vikings D.J. Wonnum dropped into coverage 83 times, and his grade of 53.4 shows that he might not have been perfectly comfortable in that role. Wonnum played a total of 99 snaps more than Van Ginkel, so percentage-wise, the new Viking was in coverage about twice as often as Wonnum.

But why is that important, isn’t Van Ginkel’s job to get after the passer? In general, yes. However, Flores lines up six, seven, or even eight defenders at the line of scrimmage on most downs to confuse the offense. Nobody knows which players will rush and which defenders will drop. Between three and seven rushers, everything is possible.

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Blitzing Harrison Smith, Josh Metellus, and Ivan Pace was a big part of the defensive game plans, and with Van Ginkel’s presence, the DC can be even more creative.

Unless something crazy happens, Van Ginkel and Greenard will play the majority of the outside linebacker snaps, with contributions from backups Patrick Jones and Andre Carter.

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