The Minnesota Vikings' defensive scheme is unknown for 2014. So is the head coach and therefore the defensive coordinator.
With all the unknowns, one thing is known: If Everson Griffen is re-signed as a free agent, he wants to stay at defensive end and develop there.
"That's my major thing. I just want to show the world what I can do at defensive end, just get my opportunity to become that player that everybody says I can become with all the talent I have and all the versatility," Griffen said after the 2013 season. "I just really want to solidify my position at defensive end and show people what I can do when I'm there and being consistent at that position throughout the whole year."
Griffen just finished his four-year, $2.5 million rookie contract as a fourth-round draft pick in 2010. He hopes to return to the Vikings but knows anything could happen in free agency.
"I'll let the chips fall where they may. Hopefully I'm back here, but you just never know. Once a Viking, always a Viking. … I want to be here and hopefully they want me here, too."
Since being draft, his versatility has been evident. He can play defensive end, defensive tackle and outside linebacker. For a time, the Vikings used him as a "joker" that would sometimes line up as a defensive lineman and drop back into coverage.
That versatility has given rise to the theory that Griffen could be an ideal outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense. He wants little to do with that.
In 2013, his concentration was on the defensive line, but, even there, stability was hard to find. With Jared Allen taking 90 percent of the team's defensive snaps at right end in 2013 and Brian Robison getting 84 percent at left end, there was little opportunity for Griffen at defensive end. Despite Vikings coaches talking often about rotating more on the defensive line, they found it difficult to take Allen and Robison off the field too much.
That led to the much of Griffen's playing time this year coming inside at defensive tackle.
"It's a lot. You've got to think about when you were playing D-tackle that it's shorter, it's quicker inside. When you're playing end, you have to wait a little longer to get to the top of the rush," Griffen said. "Bouncing all around, playing left end, right end, three-technique, everywhere, nose – it's been a blessing that I'm in the NFL, but I just want to be able to solidify my position at defensive end and show the world what I can do."
Griffen did play 60 percent of the team's defensive snaps in 2013, but much of that came inside at defensive tackle. With Allen also a free agent that took up $17 million in cap space and isn't likely to be re-signed, there should be a starting spot open for Griffen at defensive end if he returns.
He played in all 16 games in 2013, but didn't start any of them. Still, he was third in sacks (5.5) and quarterback hurries (27), fifth in tackles for loss (nine) and added 30 tackles and a forced fumble.
In the season finale, Griffen had two sacks, both coming in his limited turns at defensive end. He said his skill set translates best there.
"My speed. When I kick down inside, I still can use my speed but it still takes away from it some," Griffen said. "I just want to concentrate one position and become the player I know I can become – a great player."
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
Griffen seeks stability in his future
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