Opportunity knocks for Vikings DE Crichton

Scott Crichton fell behind early last year as a rookie and never recovered. This offseason, he is getting the early reps with an opportunity to crack the rotation.

Minnesota Vikings defensive end Brian Robison injured his pectoral muscle last month and has now been sitting out of organized team activities in order to recover.

That has given other young defensive ends on the Vikings roster a chance to step up and get time with the first-team defense. While Robison is still likely to start and play a majority of the snaps during the 2015 season, these reps could pay off for the Vikings down the road.

Second-year pro Scott Crichton and rookie Danielle Hunter are the two primary players filling in at left defensive end during Robison’s absence. Crichton didn’t get the chance to play much last year and Hunter is expected to a developmental player with a lot of upside.

“Scott Crichton has made a big jump this year,” defensive coordinator George Edwards said. “He’s doing a good job in there for us. Hunter, we’ve worked him in there some at it. Right now, we’re just kind of putting guys in that spot and looking at the different things that they bring to the position and everybody has been doing a good job, especially with Brian being out and missing some of these days this offseason.”

Due to his college schedule at Oregon State a year ago, Crichton was forced to join the team late and that put him behind from Day 1. He struggled catching up. Now, he has had a full year of practices to learn the concepts being taught to him and that has benefited him greatly.

“If you remember last year, he missed the whole offseason because he was on the quarters system,” Edwards said. “And I just think he feels a lot more comfortable with what we’re asking him to do technique- and fundamental-wise, where he’s got a lot more recall, as opposed to last year, he came in for the rookie minicamp, then missed all of that time, came back and boom, training camp. I think it all kind of got too fast for him there. Now he’s able to break things down and he’s got good recall of what we’re asking out of the position.”

If Crichton truly does feel more comfortable in the Vikings defense this year, he should have no problem finding a role. Head coach Mike Zimmer loves to rotate players in and out along the defensive line in order to keep them fresh. He was unable to do that as much in 2014 because he didn’t have enough defensive ends he trusted. Both Robison and Everson Griffen were forced to play in over 80 percent of the defensive snaps.

That means that if Crichton is able to pick up the defense and earn a spot along the line, he could be the rotational player that Zimmer was looking for all of last year.

Crichton is more of an introvert and that is just amplified when compared to the outgoing players at the defensive end position like Robison and Griffen. But according to Edwards, Crichton will work just as hard, if not harder, and he wants to get better. And it’s that work ethic that could get him out on the field more often in 2015.

“One thing about Crichton is his work ethic,” Edwards said. “He’s going to outwork a lot of guys, just that’s his mindset. He’s a blue-collar, out-work-you (player). We’re playing him outside; he’s shown the flexibility to play inside in our nickel package. From that aspect of it, we’re pleased where he’s at right now. We just need to finish this offseason strong and carry it into the opening of training camp.”

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