They decided to stay with the guy they had already developed, and the gamble of handing over a market-setting contract to Everson Griffen looks like a smart move right now. He is third in the NFL in sacks, with eight in eight games. He also is third in the league with 13½ quarterback knockdowns, according to STATS.
“His sacks are what everybody sees, but he’s playing good football in general. Three downs, he’s playing awesome. He made some plays that guys simply can’t make,” linebacker Chad Greenway said.
Linebacker Anthony Barr stole the show with his forced fumble, recovery and touchdown return on the first play in overtime of last Sunday’s win at Tampa Bay, but Griffen made a highlight film by himself.
“If you’re in the right position, making the right adjustments and doing the right stuff all the time, you’re going to make plays,” Griffen said.
Griffen got $20 million guaranteed in his five-year deal with a maximum value of $42.5 million. It was a hefty sum for a player who had found off-the-field trouble early in his career and never had been a starter before, even though his total of 18½ sacks in 49 games over the past three seasons proved his potential. But with Jared Allen leaving as a free agent, the Vikings needed to solidify the defensive spot opposite Brian Robison. They saw enough speed, agility and strength to fit new coach Mike Zimmer’s defense, and Griffen has flourished as a full-time player.
Griffen was excited right away about the scheme, too, well before the Vikings started practicing in the spring.
“Everson has bought into what we’re preaching defensively. He’s a very emotional person. He tries real hard on everything. He’s got a little bit of an ‘out there’ personality sometimes, but in a good way,” Zimmer said. “But he wants to please, he wants to do his very best, and he’s a very good athlete.”
The Vikings (3-5) have risen to 12th in the NFL in points allowed and eighth in yards. Only three teams in the league have given up fewer yards passing per game, and the defensive line has a lot to do with that. Minnesota is second in sacks with 25.
“It’s night and day compared to what it was last year,” Griffen said.
NOTES: Robison didn’t practice Wednesday due to a gluteus muscle injury. … Barr won the NFC Defensive Player of the Week award. … Injured QB Matt Cassel will host position mates Christian Ponder and Teddy Bridgewater for the Florida State-Louisville game Thursday, with their respective alma maters playing. “They’ve got a little thing going on so I said, ‘Let’s have it at my house, have some tacos and see what happens,’” Cassel said.