The Vikings Sorely Missed These 2 Players in 2023
The 2023 season ultimately ended up being a disappointment for the Minnesota Vikings.
Following their 13-4 record and NFC North title in 2022, the Vikings went 7-10 and missed the playoffs altogether in 2023. There are a number of reasons behind Minnesota’s drop off this season, but as the year wore on it became abundantly clear that the Vikings sorely missed two players on their defense.
DT Dalvin Tomlinson
Dalvin Tomlinson put together a couple very strong seasons in Minnesota during 2021 and 2022. He didn’t necessarily pop off on the stat sheet, but Tomlinson is one of the very best run defenders in the NFL and can offer some help as a pass rusher.
Minnesota got some decent production from Jonathan Bullard and Harrison Phillips this season, but they lacked that massive presence in the middle of the defensive line that can overpower opponents in the trenches.
Tomlinson signed a four-year/$57 million deal with the Cleveland Browns in free agency, and in that defense, he put together a career-high 36 QB pressures while recording three sacks. The Vikings could have used his presence in 2023.
OLB Za’Darius Smith
The departure of Za’Darius Smith wasn’t exactly something that the Vikings were fully able to control seeing as he requested to leave the team. Still, Smith was under contract, and the Vikings very well could have simply said “no” to the trade request.
Instead of making a potentially awkward situation in the locker room, Minnesota decided to trade Smith and sent him to the Cleveland Browns where he joined Tomlinson. After making the Pro Bowl with the Vikings in 2022, Smith didn’t quite have the same counting stats in Cleveland.
However, the pass-rusher remained very effective when he was on the field. Smith put together 27 tackles, 8 tackles for loss, and 5.5 sacks. While these numbers are about half of what he put together in 2022, PFF credited him with 60 pressures (compared to 80 last season) and 14 QB hits (15 in 2022).
Meanwhile, the Vikings put their eggs in the Marcus Davenport basket in an effort to replace Smith. The former Saints pass-rusher struggled with injuries throughout the season, though. He played effective football when he was on the field, but that simply didn’t happen enough.
Davenport appeared in just four games this season, recording four tackles and a pair of sacks. He missed a great chunk of the season with an ankle injury and now is headed to free agency with uncertainty regarding his future in Minnesota.
Meanwhile, the Vikings also lost D.J. Wonnum in Week 16 because of a partially torn quad. Wonnum was the guy who largely took over the other pass-rushing spot opposite Danielle Hunter when Davenport went down. Now, he also heads to free agency and could be playing elsewhere in 2024.
Now, All Things Vikings Turn to One Player.
Josh Frey is a Class of 2020 graduate of The College of Idaho and managing editor of PurplePTSD.com. When he’s not writing about the NFL, Josh enjoys running, gaming, or rooting for the Milwaukee Brewers and Bucks. Check out his Twitter account: @Freyed_Chicken.