Sunday, January 26, 2014

Vikings 2013 Defensive Grades

The season is over and in the second part of a two-part series Daniel House grades each player on the defensive side of the ball and provides all the final statistical information from the 2013 season.

I sat down and graded each player on the Vikings roster and today I am unveiling the defensive portion of the two-part series. There is a ton of information to sift through as we evaluate the roster and decide the direction the team will head from a personnel standpoint in 2014. 

Finally, here are Daniel House's 2013 Vikings Defensive Grades: 

(Note: Must have minimum of 50 defensive snaps)

Defensive Ends: 

Brian Robison

Season Stats: 16 games, 25 solo tackles, 9 sacks, 1 fumble recovery 

Snap Count: 971 snaps, 83% of defensive snaps

Grade: A-

Analysis: Brian Robison got a contract extension in the middle of the season and he easily lived up to the expectations the Vikings anticipated in 2013. He nearly reached double-digit sacks, and played in 83% of the team's snaps in 2014, which was very encouraging for this team. He was one of the bright spots of the Vikings defense and his relentless motor motivated the team to keep playing when circumstances weren't great in the middle of the season. His leadership abilities, combated with his improved play on the field are all encouraging signs for a defensive lineman that will be the focal point of the Vikings front-seven next season.

Projected 2014 Status: Starter

Jared Allen 

Season Stats: 16 games, 33 solo tackles, 11.5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles

Snap Count: 1,058 snaps, 91% of defensive snaps

Grade: B-

Analysis: Jared Allen was disappointing at points during the season, but he still managed to reach double-digit sacks for the seventh straight season. Allen was very vocal about how this was one of the worst defenses he has ever played on, which is probably a very accurate statement. Many having been questioning Allen's effort down the stretch of the 2013 season and if he was taking some plays off. The Bengals game comes to mind and on several occasions you could clearly see Allen stopped pursuing plays off the line of scrimmage. Allen is a great leader for this team and he has been a piece of this team for six great seasons, but we have watched Jared Allen play his last game with the team. He is a free agent and with a cap hit of just over $17 million, the Vikings can use his money to sign a defensive back such as Alterruan Verner in free agency.

Projected 2014 Status: Walks in free agency

Everson Griffen

Season Stats: 16 games, 18 solo tackles, 5.5 sacks, 1 forced fumble

Snap Count: 697 snaps, 60% of defensive snaps

Grade: B+

Analysis: Everson Griffen was one of the players I anticipated would have a breakthrough season in Mankato during Vikings training camp this year. His production improved in 2013, but he still hasn't reached the level we thought he would entering last season. This could be attributed to only seeing 60% of defensive snaps, which mostly came during third-down pass rushing situations. Griffen will be a free-agent in 2014 and the Vikings need to make resigning him a priority when they look at structuring the roster. If Jared Allen walks in free agency, Griffen will see the bulk of the snaps at defensive end, which would be good for his contract negotiations this offseason. If the Vikings add a hybrid 3-4 defense, Griffen could easily be moved to outside linebacker and be successful while doing so. In elevated snaps as a starter, I will be salivating to see what Everson Griffen can bring to the table in 2014.

Projected 2014 Status: Starter

Defensive Tackles: 

Kevin Williams

Season Stats: 15 games, 17 solo tackles, 3.5 sacks, 1 fumble recovery, 1 interception

Snap Count: 718 snaps, 62% of defensive snaps

Grade: B+

Analysis: Kevin Williams played extremely well in a contract season and for a man his age, he is still effective in the middle of the defense. The Vikings moved him inside to nose tackle when injuries plagued the defensive line and he absolutely dominated in the Washington game this season. With his age, the Vikings decided they couldn't put him in the middle frequently, however, he still played very well in the interior of the defense. His contract expired at the end of the season and Williams will need to decide if he will restructure his contract to return as a rotational player. He has expressed interest in playing for Mike Zimmer, but he will need to decide whether retiring as a Viking is something he would like to do. If he returns to the fold, he would likely split snaps with Sharrif Floyd as the team looks to develop his abilities. One thing is certain, Williams provides immense leadership to the locker room, which could be important as the team adds a new coaching staff into the mix.

Projected 2014 Status: Restructures and retires at a Viking

Sharrif Floyd

Season Stats: 16 games, 9 solo tackles, 2.5 sacks, 1 forced fumble

Snap Count: 459 snaps, 39% of defensive snaps

Grade: B-

Analysis: For some reason the Vikings were totally against playing rookies immediately in 2013 and it arguably contributed to the coaching staff's demise at the end of the season. Sharrif Floyd was one of three first round picks the Vikings drafted in 2013 and his unbelievable plummet down the draft board allowed the Vikings to snag him at the bottom of the draft. This season he proved he had the speed to rush up the middle, but it was tough for him to get his hands up when he couldn't get to the quarterback. His footwork left us with little to build upon and was the biggest concern for me this season. This will only improve with coaching and more playing time in the games. Mike Zimmer will have a big influence on his development and with a little shove in the back and some intensity in practices, Floyd will become a great successor to Kevin Williams when he is ready to leave.

Projected 2014 Status: Rotational Starter with Kevin Williams

Letroy Guion

Season Stats: 13 games, 10 solo tackles, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble, 1 fumble recovery

Snap Count: 388 snaps, 33% of defensive snaps

Grade: C-

Analysis: Letroy Guion's play has always been a huge disappointment since the day he set foot on the field for the Minnesota Vikings. His lazy playing philosophy and his continued inability to cut weight and become athletic are areas that won't mesh well with Mike Zimmer. He is out of position and is awful at staying in his lanes and gaps in the middle of the defense. He has been injured frequently with this team and I wouldn't entirely be against drafting a defensive tackle to replace him in the middle of the defense. His work ethic doesn't impress me and given he hasn't made a continued contribution, it will take an amazing offseason for him to be back with this team in 2014.

Projected 2014 Status: Released in roster cuts

Fred Evans

Season Stats: 14 games, 16 solo tackles, 1 forced fumble

Snap Count: 350 snaps, 30% of defensive snaps

Grade: B-

Analysis: Fred Evans has quietly become a very nice rotational defensive player for this team and his ability to replace injured players has been a really nice asset. He is great at gaining leverage and getting his hands in passing lanes for deflections at the line of scrimmage. Evans is great depth among the Vikings defensive line, which is important for a position that requires frequent rotation. He will be a free agent this season and the Vikings may resign him to compete with Letroy Guion and Chase Baker for the final spot in the defensive tackle area of the depth chart.

Projected 2014 Status: Returns as depth

Chase Baker

Season Stats: 5 games, 2 solo tackles

Snap Count: 57 snaps, 5% of defensive snaps

Grade: B-

Analysis: Chase Baker has always impressed me when I have watched him practice during Vikings training camp. His footwork and underdog mentality have propelled him to stay with this team through mixed stints on the practice squad and active roster. He is a very quick and agile interior speed pass rusher and has great versatility among the front-seven of the defensive line. He only witnessed 57 snaps in 2013, but with a new coaching staff entering the organization, his hard work could be recognized and he could find himself being depth among the Vikings defensive line.

Projected 2014 Status: Returns as depth


Chad Greenway

Season Stats: 16 games, 134 total tackles, 83 solo, 3.0 sacks, 3 interceptions

Snap Count: 1,152 snaps, 99% of defensive snaps

Grade: B+

Analysis: Chad Greenway is a very tough human after playing through a broken wrist for the majority of the 2013 season. He still managed to lead the team in tackles and his continued leadership abilities have spread a positive vibe in the Vikings locker room. He struggled in coverage this season, but some of this could be due to his decapitated wrist, along with the poor play of Erin Henderson in the middle of the defense. You could definitively see Greenway's play improve when Audie Cole entered and he wasn't continually compensating for mistakes Erin Henderson provided in coverage. The Vikings will look to improve the play at linebacker and Chad Greenway will be the fixture of completing this mission.

Projected 2014 status: Starter

Erin Henderson

Season Stats: 14 games, 112 total tackles, 69 solo, 4 sacks, 1 forced fumble, 2 interceptions

Snap Count: 848 snaps, 73% of defensive snaps

Grade: C- 

Analysis: Erin Henderson's stat line is very deceiving and doesn't provide statistics for how much he was out of position in coverage. He was constantly trailing behind running backs this season and his inability to adequately play well in the base defense was unacceptable. Not only was his play on the field disappointing, but tallying two DWI's in just over month and half is even more unacceptable. The Vikings are saving money by waiting to release Henderson until after the Super Bowl ends and the league year begins. The organization is looking to clean up the continued arrests and with his mediocre play and off-the-field issues, he won't be around next season to help this defense.

Projected 2014 Status: Gone

Marvin Mitchell

Season Stats: 16 games, 48 total tackles, 18 solo, 1 fumble recovery

Snap Count: 304 snaps, 26% of defensive snaps

Grade: C- 

Analysis: Marvin Mitchell really struggled this season and was benched for Desmond Bishop earlier in the season, until Bishop tore his ACL during his first significant amount of playing time. The Vikings played significantly less amounts of base defense because they were so far behind at many points of the season. When Mitchell was on the field, he failed to produce in coverage and didn't make tackles like an outside linebacker should. This year we learned one thing about Mitchell: he is strictly a solid special teams player.

Projected 2014 Status: Gone

Audie Cole

Season Stats: 13 games, 45 total tackles, 27 solo, 1 sack

Snap Count: 323 snaps, 28% of defensive snaps

Grade: B+

Analysis: Audie Cole finally experienced the chance to play in the middle of the defense after Erin Henderson's arrest and he proved he could be a candidate to start next season. He is a brilliant tackler, is great in coverage and can actually close on interceptions very well. He still needs to work on his awareness as a defensive player, but this will come with more time in-game situations. Cole's foot injury at the end of the season shut him down for the final two games, but he built his resume enough to give him a chance in Mike Zimmer's defensive scheme next season.


Chris Cook 

Season Stats: 12 games, 47 total tackles, 41 solo tackles, 0 interceptions

Snap Count: 734 snaps, 63% of defensive snaps

Grade: D

Analysis: Nobody has to tell you how disappointing Chris Cook has been for this team since the day he was drafted. He hasn't corralled an interception in his four-year career, along with zero force fumbles or recoveries. How is this possible from a starting cornerback in this league? It isn't, and his inability to stay healthy is also another reason why he is an absolute liability. Teams find Cook on the field and shred him on a continual basis. His size and tangibles were hyped when he was drafted by this team, but he hasn't brought anything to the table for this team. The only way Cook is resigned to the team in 2014 is if Mike Zimmer feels like he can turn Chris Cook into Adam "Pacman" Jones 2.0, which could be a possibility.

Projected 2014 Status: Gone

Josh Robinson 

Season Stats: 10 games, 58 total tackles, 48 solo, 1 forced fumble, 0 interceptions 

Snap Count: 653 snaps, 56% of defensive snaps

Grade: C-

Analysis: Josh Robinson was a huge disappointment for me in 2013 after he showed extremely raw talent flashes in his rookie season. In the ten games he played he was the most targeted Vikings cornerback and opposing quarterbacks ripped him to pieces. Entering the 2012 season his evaluations showed speed, athleticism, and raging ball skills at the University of Central Florida, but that hasn't transitioned to the NFL. With some work on his fundamentals, including footwork and awareness, I still believe Robinson could be a successful cornerback for this team. With some work from Mike Zimmer and Jerry Gray, he still poses upside and talent that is raw and could be developed.

Projected 2014 Status: Returns as depth

Xavier Rhodes

Season Stats: 13 games, 48 total tackles, 41 solo, 1 forced fumble, 0 interceptions 

Snap Count: 674 snaps, 58% of defensive snaps

Grade: B+

Analysis: Xavier Rhodes was drafted in the first round with the thought of becoming a lock down cornerback this team needed in 2013. He lived up to the expectation when he finally was awarded time at the midway point of the season. He was brilliant at producing passes defensed and was more physical than I actually anticipated. He is in position to make interceptions, he just needs to learn how to close on situations and this can be done through minimal work. His growth is moving miles ahead of the early anticipation, which will pay dividends for the future of this team. Add one more experienced cornerback to the mix and the defensive secondary improves immensely.

Projected 2014 Status: Starter

Marcus Sherels

Season Stats: 16 games, 46 total tackles, 40 solo, 1 interception

Snap Count: 527 snaps, 45% of defensive snaps

Grade: B-

Analysis: Marcus Sherels is the story of a player that battles his tail off every training camp and is rewarded every season for his efforts. He played surprisingly well when injuries struck the Vikings secondary in the midpoint of the season. His awareness and ball skills have improved immensely and despite his size, he can still compete with the physical wide receivers of the NFC. He still is continually picked on because of his size and inexperience, but he keeps battling, which is admirable. He is a big asset in the punt return game, which has played a role in his success, as well. With the Vikings potentially hitting free agency hard for cornerbacks again this offseason, the odds will be stacked against him and he will have to prove it to all of us one more time.

Projected 2014 Status: Cut

Robert Blanton

Season Stats: 16 games, 60 total tackles, 37 solo, 0 interceptions 

Snap Count: 391 snaps, 34% of defensive snaps

Grade: B+

Analysis: Robert Blanton quietly was extremely solid as a nickel cornerback in the second half of the season. He played cornerback in college and the Vikings decided to give him a chance in that role in the NFL. He is big and physical, which caused him to press hard off the line of scrimmage and keep slot wide receivers honest. In addition, he was a great tackler and kept nice containment to slot receivers this season. He has the physicality and size to play cornerback and the Vikings might have realized this through the second half he displayed last season.

Projected 2014 Status: CB Depth

Shaun Prater

Season Stats: 8 games, 9 total tackles, 6 solo, 1 interception

Snap Count: 158 snaps, 14% of defensive snaps

Grade: B

Analysis: The Vikings sniped Shaun Prater when he was cut by the Eagles early in the season and it turned out to be an excellent decision. Prater played extremely well in the final stretch of the season and I was so impressed with his developed ball skills and physicality. His size provides a nice tangible and with more playing time, I think Jerry Gray could develop Prater into a solid cornerback in this league. He can provide nice depth for this team in the form of a polished, physical, defensive back.

Projected 2014 Status: CB Depth


Harrison Smith

Season Stats: 8 games, 58 total tackles, 47 solo, 1 fumble recovery, 2 interceptions 

Snap Count: 526 snaps, 45% of defensive snaps

Grade: B+

Analysis: What isn't there to like about Harrison Smith? After suffering a turf toe injury we didn't get a chance to watch him play very much this season, but when he was in the game, he played at a very high level. His fearless personality, ball skills, and hard hitting abilities, make him one of the best safeties in the game. The next priority is to pair him with a reckless safety to his left, which would make the Vikings back-end even more formidable than it already is.

Projected 2014 Status: Starter

Andrew Sendejo

Season Stats: 16 games, 84 total tackles, 52 solo, 1 interception

Snap Count: 725 snaps, 62% of defensive snaps

Grade: B

Analysis: Andrew Sendejo could be the man that is summoned to play alongside Harrison Smith next season. In playing 62% of snaps this season, he proved he could be a hard hitting safety with decent ball skills. His tackling at the line of scrimmage and in the open field was remarkably exceptional and his hard work ethic will impress Mike Zimmer. He is one Vikings player who is in the facility working out all the time, which is probably why his arms are the size of three Arizona desert pythons. Don't be surprised if Sendejo doesn't impress the new coaching staff and lands the job right alongside Harrison Smith; creating an extremely hard hitting back side of the defense.

Jamarca Sanford

Season Stats: 13 games, 75 total tackles, 58 solo, 2 forced fumbles, 1 fumble recovery

Snap Count: 790 snaps, 68% of defensive snaps

Grade: C-

Analysis: Jamarca Sanford has never dazzled me during his time in Minnesota and they way the Vikings have rotated him is somewhat annoying. He has developed the nickname, "Stone Hands Sanford," which probably isn't the best situation for a member of a defensive secondary. He is a decent tackler, but sometimes gets caught arm tackling during long game breaking plays. Sanford has been average for this team and I firmly believe he is merely an asset as a special teams ace.

Projected 2014 Status: Special Teams/Safety Depth

Mistral Raymond

Season Stats: 12 games, 15 total tackles, 10 solo, 0 interceptions 

Snap Count: 203 snaps, 17% of defensive snaps

Grade: C-

Analysis: Mistral Raymond is another disappointing Vikings cornerback that has continued to underachieve in his third season in the league. He just barely made the roster out of training camp this season and was deactivated in three games in 2013. Raymond has struggled as a tackler and his inability to stay healthy has been a big issue when it comes to the playing time he has experienced during his career. He was rotated at times throughout the Vikings back-end, but his status on the team was very confusing this season. I'm not sure the direction Mike Zimmer will head with Mistral Raymond, but given his continued struggles, it would take some work for him to be developed next season.

Projected 2014 Status: Cut in Training Camp

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