Where Do the Vikings New DTs Rank Among NFL’s Best?

Sep 30, 2018; Pittsburgh, PA, United States; Baltimore Ravens defensive tackle Michael Pierce (97) against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field. Mandatory Credit: Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

The interior partition of the 2020 Minnesota Vikings defensive line was small and unprofitable. Shamar Stephen and Jaleel Johnson’s duo have been fragmented because Michael Pierce chose not to participate in 2020 activities due to coronavirus precautions.

Stephen was the intended three-technique defensive tackle, slipping on the nose tackle in Pierce’s absence. According to his body type, Stephen is do not a bona fide nose tackle. But the coaching staff was eternally high on Stephen, so he was hired for NT duty. To be honest, he wasn’t horrible. Stephen got a 61.7 Focus on professional football note, balancing its stopping and passing holdings in the 1950s. It was usable.

When he scooted his nose, his 3DT job was canceled. The aforementioned Johnson took over. His performance was abominable, scoring a score of 35.3 PFF. Of 126 qualifying defensive tackles, Johnson’s score of 35.3 ranked 124th in the NFL – or third worst in any sport.

Stephen placed 70th overall among TDs or slightly “worse” than the middle of the pack.

But those days are over. Both men now play for other NFL franchises – Stephen for the Denver Broncos under George Paton and Jaleel Johnson for the Houston Texans. Michael Pierce will take on the nose tackle responsibilities while Dalvin Tomlinson, a New York Giants free agent, will tie the 3DT hole.

The forecast for the guts of the defensive line is a lot brighter. The Vikings will no longer rely on a hodgepodge solution for ultra-important spot (s) on the pitch.

PFF ranked all inside defensive linemen this week in their series position by position. And PFF’s Ben Linsey is higher on Tomlinson than on Pierce.

Tomlinson is ranked 17th best IDL in the NFL. He is a filing mate with Shelby Harris of the Denver Broncos and Dexter Lawrence of the New York Giants. Linsey wrote on Tomlinson:

Michael Pierce’s absence last season underscored Minnesota’s clear need on the inside, and they responded by signing Tomlinson in free agency. Tomlinson isn’t quite the penetrating 3 technique that made sense for the Vikings on paper next to Pierce, but he’s a pretty good football player. He has been in the 83rd percentile of the PFF run defense rank since 2017 and has shown some ability to shake off the quarterback as a passer of nose tackle lineups in 2020.

Pierce also made the 32-player cut. This is notable because there are 64 starting interior defensive linemen in any given week in the NFL calendar. Pierce ranked # 26 just below Ndamukong Suh. Here’s what PFF said about the old Raven:

Pierce’s role as a racing executioner is well defined, and there is little better than him in this role. Samford’s undrafted free agent earned a race defense score of 91.1 in the first four seasons of his career in Baltimore, placing fifth among all qualifiers at the post. Minnesota missed out on Pierce’s ability after his retirement last season, stumbling to a 30th place in terms of expected added points allowed per running game.

The Vikings need help in both DL areas. Compared to the pandemic season rush, Minnesota have surrendered the sixth most rushing yards per game (134.4). They also gave up the ninth most passing yards per game (258.8). Mike Zimmer’s squad didn’t fire anyone either – Minnesota sacked opposing quarterbacks in the league’s fifth-worst clip. It’s also the same unit that got Alvin Kamara rushing for six touchdowns on Christmas Day five months ago. You know the guys – the ones with the the worst passing race in the league in the same season.

The Jinx may be a thing – but can it really get worse? Probably not. Especially with starting caliber TDs in the house for the Vikings in 2021. Or as you might call them – two League Top 26 TDs.

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