Scouting the schedule: Defensive ends

The Vikings’ offensive tackles struggled at times, so who will they face in 2015 and how did those defensive ends fare last year? We examine the upcoming opposing defensive ends on the Vikings’ 2015 schedule.

Defensive Ends

Chicago Bears: Home and Away
Jared Allen
Allen is an 11-year veteran of the NFL, and after spending time with the Kansas City Chiefs and Minnesota Vikings he has found himself playing for the Chicago Bears. In his first season with the Bears, Allen recorded 55 tackles, 5½ sacks, 20 quarterback hits, 32 quarterback hurries, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and four passes defended. Allen has been on a steady decline for the past couple years, and it continued in 2014 as he only recorded 5½ sacks. Even though he struggled getting to quarterbacks, he was still able to pressure them and received a 3.5 pass-rush rating by Pro Football Focus. He did, however, struggle against the run as he received a -1.3 rating, which led to a 5.4 overall rating.

Detroit Lions: Home and Away
Ezekiel Ansah
After his second season Ansah has become one of the top defensive ends in the NFL, and he is still learning to play the position. PFF had him ranked as the fifth-best defensive end in a 4-3 system with a 17.6 rating. Ansah had a well-rounded performance during the 2014 season as he received a 9.9 rating defending the run and a 8.7 rating rushing the passer. During the regular season he recorded 49 tackles, 7½ sacks, 23 quarterback hits, 37 quarterback hurries, and three forced fumbles. As Ansah continues to get more years under his belt his game should continue to improve on what is already impressive ability.

Green Bay Packers: Home and Away
Mike Daniels
In his third year in the NFL, Daniels has become one of the Packers’ top defensive ends. The problem is that he does not always get the recognition because in a 3-4 system it is often the linebackers – such as Julius Peppers – that get the credit. PFF rated Daniels with an 18.8, which made him the eighth-best defensive end in a 3-4 system. During the regular season he recorded 41 tackles, 5½ sacks, 11 quarterback hits and 26 quarterback hurries. Daniels was solid rushing the passer – earning a 9.1 rating – but where he really shined was against the run – earning a 13.6 rating.

Seattle Seahawks: Home
Michael Bennett
In 2014 Bennett was one of the most dominant defensive ends in a 4-3 system, second only to Cameron Wake of the Miami Dolphins, according to PFF’s rankings. In his sixth year in the NFL Bennett recorded 38 tackles, a team-high seven sacks, 13 quarterback hits, 53 quarterback hurries and a forced fumble. His 53 quarterback hurries was the most among 4-3 defensive ends and it showed that even though he did not get to the quarterback all the time, he was back there disrupting them and it showed in his 20.1 PFF rating in pass rush. Overall, Bennett received a 26.4 rating, as he also excelled defending the run.

Arizona Cardinals: Away
Calais Campbell
After being a second-round draft pick out of Miami (Fla.) by the Cardinals in 2008, Campbell has finished up his seventh year in the NFL. He has become a disrupting force for the Cardinals’ 3-4 defense and his play earned him the rating of 31.1, making him the fourth-rated 3-4 defensive end. During the season Campbell recorded 58 tackles, seven sacks, eight quarterback hits and 33 quarterback hurries. Even though he has been in the NFL for seven years, Campbell is just 28 years old and still has a lot of football left to play in his career.

St. Louis Rams: Home
Robert Quinn
There were high expectations for Quinn during the 2014 season after his breakout year in 2013. Even though he finished strong, he did not start out the same way, especially in Week 3 when he recorded a -4.6 rating by PFF. He finished the season with a 14.4 rating, which is impressive after having a -3.1 rating through the first seven weeks. Quinn was once again strong rushing the passer – receiving an 18.3 rating – but he struggled when forced to defend the run – receiving a -2.0 rating. In 2014 Quinn recorded 46 tackles, 10½ sacks, 15 quarterback hits, 27 quarterback hurries, five forced fumbles and six passes defended.

San Francisco 49ers: Away
Justin Smith
Smith just finished his 14th season in the NFL, and even though he is 35 years old he is still able to produce at a high level. Last season he recorded 43 tackles, five sacks, nine quarterback hits, 20 quarterback hurries, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery. As Smith continues to get older his production will start to decline. You could see the effect this season, as Smith struggled during the last three weeks of the season, but whether that is because of him not being able to sustain the entire course of a season or not is still uncertain.

Kansas City Chiefs: Home
Jaye Howard
The defensive ends for the Chiefs, by most accounts, had a poor 2014 regular season. PFF had Howard rated as their best defensive end and he was rated -1.6. Throughout the season, there were only five times that he was given a positive rating. The Chiefs run defense was not very good in general, allowing 127.2 rushing yards a game, and Howard did not help too much. He was ranked a -2.6 when going up against the run, but he was a little better rushing the passer, receiving a 2.0 rating. During his third year in the NFL, Howard recorded 36 tackles, one sack, four quarterback hits, 11 quarterback hurries and one pass defended. He is still a young player and should be able to improve his game in 2015.

Denver Broncos: Away
Malik Jackson
In his third year in the NFL, Jackson was able to make an impact in a big way for the Broncos. He recorded 42 tackles, three sacks, 13 quarterback hits, 33 quarterback hurries, one forced fumble and four passes defended during the regular season. Because of his performance PFF rated him 24.2, which made him the third-rated defensive end in a 4-3 system. Jackson is only 25 years old, so he still has a lot of football left to play. As he continues to gain more experience his performance should steadily increase.

San Diego Chargers: Home
Ricardo Matthews
Matthews did not see the field very much in 2014; in fact, he only played in 303 defensive snaps over a course of 12 games. Even so, he is still the highest-rated defensive end on the Chargers with a 3.4 rating, according to PFF. During the 2014 season Matthews recorded 21 tackles, 1½ sacks, two quarterback hits, 12 quarterback hurries, and two forced fumbles. He just finished his fifth year in the NFL and is a free agent this offseason. He could go somewhere he can compete for a starting job, but he has been a rotational player for a majority of his career and will likely continue to be that in 2015.

Oakland Raiders: Away
Justin Tuck
Last offseason the Raiders brought in a lot of veteran players that were once good but may have been a little past their prime in hopes of getting one final run out of them. At 31, Tuck was one of the players brought in, although he probably had a little more gas left in the tank than others. During the regular season he recorded 43 tackles, a team-high five sacks, 11 quarterback hits, 19 quarterback hurries, two forced fumbles, one interception and three passes defended. Those stats led to PFF rating him 6.5 overall on the season. Tuck played well both against the run, receiving a 4.4 rating, and rushing the passer, receiving a 3.0 rating.

New York Giants: Home
Jason Pierre-Paul
With the departure of Tuck from the Giants, the hopes of their defense seemed to fall down to Pierre-Paul and he did not disappoint. On the season he recorded 77 tackles, a team-high 12½ sacks, nine quarterback hits, 38 quarterback hurries, three forced fumbles, one fumble recovery and six passes defended. At the age of 26, Pierre-Paul just finished his fifth year in the NFL, and still has a lot of football left in him. He is one of those players that seems to improve little by little every year, and if that trend continues he will be a very difficult player for opponents to matchup against in 2015.

Atlanta Falcons: Away
Osi Umenyiora
It was not a good season for Umenyiora, who only recorded 12 tackles, 2½ sacks, six quarterback hits and 26 quarterback hurries. The fact that he was able to hurry the quarterback 26 times shows that he is still able to beat the offensive linemen, but it also shows that he might be loosing a step. Umenyiora has been in the NFL for 12 years now, and at age 33 it is more than likely that he is beginning to slow down. Last season PFF gave him a 1.9 rating because even though he did not get many sacks he was still successful pressuring the quarterback. Where he did struggle, though, was stopping the run and it showed when he received a -1.2 rating. Umenyiora will once again be a free agent this offseason and you expect that a player that has had as successful a career as he has had will want to go somewhere he can start.

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