Each NFL season, every team has a player that bears a little added attention. So which performer could turn the corner for the Minnesota Vikings in ’17?
Welcome to yet another 32-team series from End Zone Score. In recent months, we took the time to look at each club’s best offseason addition. We even dabbled into some pertinent and historical numbers.
Every NFL season features players that come into their own after a slow start to their careers. It’s tough to tell when each performer’s coming-put party will take place. Some are immediate successes. Others take longer due to numerous circumstances, but they prove to be worth the wait. Here we will try and pinpoint a player from each team in the league that we feel is on the verge of putting it altogether.
DE Datone Jones
All told, 2016 proved to be a very rough year for the Purple Gang. That’s because the Minnesota Vikings were black and blue before the regular-season started. A severe knee injury to quarterback Teddy Bridgewater shelved him for all of ‘16. Weeks later, running back Adrian Peterson went down and wound up playing less than a handful of games.
The team’s defensive unit held its own for the most part this past season as a readjusted offense did its best. But eventually Mike Zimmer’s pride and joy wore down. The Vikings allowed the third-fewest total yards in the NFL, but were ranked 20th in the league against the run.
The team has its share of standout pass-rushers like ends Danielle Hunter (12.5), Everson Griffen (8) and veteran Brian Robison (7.5). The trio accounted for 28 of the club’s 41 sacks this past season. But this defense could use more of an inside presence when it comes to getting after the quarterback. Hence the addition of former Green Bay Packers’ first-round draft choice. After four years of chasing down quarterbacks in the 3-4, he comes to the Twin Cities and is ready to inherit a somewhat-different but familiar role – with help from Zimmer’s staff.
“Me and (defensive line) coach (Andre) Patterson talked a lot,” said Jones to Sid Hartman of the Star Tribune. “They really said they can see me and utilize me as a three-technique. A lot of people were like, ‘Man, how do you go from outside linebacker and defensive end to a flat-out three-technique?’ But you know, that’s my element. That’s where I rushed from on third down in Green Bay. I’m used to playing inside.
“Coach Patterson trusted in me that I could actually make that adjustment,” added the four-year veteran. “I’ve been putting a lot of work in down here to help make that transition. But I know once I’m in camp, guys are going to help me. Guys like (nose tackle) Linval Joseph, even guys like (defensive tackle) Tom Johnson, and the rest of the group can help me make my transition.”
With a combined nine sacks, some would tend to label Datone Jones a bust. We prefer to wait and see how he performs with the Minnesota Vikings, whose head coach has a tendency to get the most out of his defensive linemen.