Sometimes NFL teams have too many open positions on the field and not enough worthy players to fill them. That’s a bad problem. Other times teams have too many players worthy of being on the field and not enough open positions. That’s a better problem to have.
When it comes to Everson Griffen, the Vikings have a good problem to solve. As a defensive end sitting behind All-Pro Jared Allen and six-year veteran Brian Robison, Griffen provides depth along the defensive line. But the Vikings have figured out that Griffen’s skill set and versatility make him too valuable a player to be on the sidelines more than he’s on the field.
“Everson has worked extremely hard this offseason,” Vikings GM Rick Spielman said. “The thing he gives you is versatility on defense, and how the coaches will figure out to put in different type of packages. He can stand up in the linebacker position, they can blitz him, he’s athletic enough to drop off in coverage, he can speed rush off the right side, he can come off the left side, and we even use him inside some as an inside nickel rusher when we try to get all of our pass rushers. One of the things you really try to hone in on are those guys that have unique athletic traits that can do multiple things for you.”
So what to do? Last summer the Vikings began experimenting with the idea of playing Griffen at LB occasionally, an idea that makes sense given Griffen’s athleticism and the presence of two established starters at his more natural position. And now, as FoxSportsNorth’s Brian Hall noted late last week, the Vikings are once again considering Griffen at LB.
“Yeah, that’s one of the things we’re talking about as a staff, being able to get him a few more reps at linebacker when we get to Mankato because, as you know from last season, we used him in that situation where he was a linebacker in some of our third down defense,” Frazier explained. “We’d like to be able to escalate that a little bit and maybe even in the early downs, get him on the field. We feel like we have two outstanding defensive ends in Jared (Allen) and then Brian (Robison) but with Everson, he’s an excellent athlete. You want to be able to get him more than ten or fifteen snaps a game and this is a way to possibly do that, so we’ll explore and see how he comes along in Mankato.”
Adding credence to the idea of moving Griffen to LB, even if it’s on a part-time basis, is that the Vikings are still unsure of what they have for depth at that position. Chad Greenway and Erin Henderson are established starters at outside LB, and the Vikings are hopeful Jasper Brinkley can evolve into a solid starter in the middle. After that there are players on the roster who could provide depth, such as 7th-round draft pick Audie Cole, Larry Dean, Solomon Elimimian and Marvin Mitchell, but Griffen could be one to compete with those individuals for playing time.
For his part, Griffen just wants to be on the field in whatever capacity the coaches ask so that he can help the team win. Now entering his 3rd season in the NFL, Griffen is used to lining up all over the field, something he can do because of his athleticism. He even plays gunner on the punt team, after all, which is a remarkable accomplishment for a player listed as a DE.
“I’m comfortable,” Griffen said. “With my athletic ability, I feel like I can come and pretty much do anything. That’s not me being cocky. I just feel like I can just come in and adapt to the situation.”
Fans love the idea of moving Griffen to LB because A) it’s a way to get a good player on the field more often and B) it’s a creative way to solve a problem and fans appreciate when their team uses an outside-the-box idea to try and improve.
But is Griffen better-suited to remain in his role as a reserve DE?
“Yeah, we think he can do that, but based on what we see in Mankato, that’s going to determine [if he plays LB],” Frazier said. “We want to give him a chance to see if he can help us at that linebacker spot where we’re still working with our depth, we’re still trying to identify what our depth is going to be at that position.”
Tags: Everson Griffen, Leslie Frazier, Rick Spielman
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 115 Comments »