Griffen excelling as first-year starter

Everson Griffen recorded two sacks and scored a touchdown on special teams. He’s getting used to the extra attention but continues to build on the best season of his career.

The Minnesota Vikings took a bit of a risk this past offseason when they let go of veteran defensive end Jared Allen and instead decided to pay Everson Griffen, who hadn’t been a starter coming into this season. He had shown a lot of promise playing behind Allen, recording a total of 17.5 sacks in his first four years playing with the team – his season high prior to this season was 2012 with eight sacks.

This season, could double his career sack total as he now has 11 sacks on the season. He recorded two of those during Sunday’s game against the Carolina Panthers, and with four games left to play in the season he is sure to be looking to add to his total.

Even though the Vikings had an idea about how good Griffen was going to be, they have to be pleasantly surprised with the numbers he has already produced. Even Griffen is a little surprised at how good the season has been going for him and notes that both he and the team are going to continue to fight until the end.

“I knew I could have a good year, and it was going even better than I thought,” Griffen said. “But as a team we have to keep on pushing and keep going to get where we want to go. The season hasn’t worked out for us the way we wanted to go, but we’re fighters. No matter what, we fight to the end. That’s what we are doing, we just keep on fighting.”

As Griffen has continued to prove that he is one of the top pass rushers in the NFL, more and more teams have been focusing on stopping him. They will double-team him, send a tight end over to help the tackle out, or have the tight ends and running backs chip him as they run their routes. All of this makes it more difficult to reach the quarterback, and that can get frustrating for a player.

“You get frustrated,” said Griffen. “You do get frustrated, but you can’t let the frustration take you out of the game. You just have to keep on going and keep on working. And that’s what I did; I stayed in the zone. I rely on my teammates to go out there and win their one-on-ones, and I just have to keep on going. When I finally got my chance to get the one-one-one, I just beat the guy and I got the sack.”

Mike Zimmer has preached since Day 1 that for the offensive line to work properly in his system they need to play as a single unit, and not focus on the individuals. That allows players like Griffen to make an impact even when they are not pressuring the quarterback. When Griffen is drawing attention from multiple players he is helping out his teammates by giving them one-on-one opportunities, and freeing up space for them.

Having the ability to make an impact during the game in multiple ways is important to him. Not only did Griffen have a big impact on defense against the Panthers, but he also made an impact on special teams.

The defensive end was able to haul in the second blocked punt of the day and run it into the end zone for a score.

“The punt block, Jasper Brinkley came free and the ball bounced right in front of me,” he said. “I had to take it and scoop it and score. If it wasn’t for Jasper Brinkley, I wouldn’t have been able to do that. I saw the ball, I picked it up and I scored.”

That was Griffen’s first score since the 2012 season when the Vikings played the St. Louis Rams and he was able to pick off a pass and return it for a touchdown.

This week’s big game came at a perfect time for Griffen because he was riding a two-week sack drought and it seemed that teams may have been figuring him out a little bit.

Even though he did not record a sack against Chicago or Green Bay, he said he wasn’t getting frustrated.

“No, it don’t get frustrating,” Griffen said. “Sacks, they come in bunches. You get a lot of sacks and then ease off and then you get some more, so they come in bunches. So you just got to keep on working and let them come to you. You can’t really worry about them or you’ll get caught up in getting sacks.”

If sacks truly do come in bunches, it appears it’s time for him to start recording more of them and continue to add to the career-high numbers that he has been producing this season.

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