The Vikings improved their quarterback sack totals from 2006 during their second year of implementing the Tampa-2 scheme as their base defense, but they still didn't have one dominant pass rusher.
That's likely the reason the Vikings were talking with draft prospect Kendall Langford at the Senior Bowl last month in Mobile, Ala. Langford is a 6-foot-5, 275-pound defensive end from Hampton who was building a name for himself during the East-West Shrine practices and then the Senior Bowl opportunities the following week.
The issue with Langford will be the quality of opponents he faced and how that might translate into the NFL. In 2007 with Division II Hampton, he had 12 quarterback pressures, six sacks and 13 tackles-for-loss. That was done over an 11-game time period, and he has started every game since the beginning of his sophomore season.
He is a three-time all-MEAC selection and proved to be a solid tackler through his college career. He led the Pirates with 15.5 tackles-for-loss as a sophomore, when he finished second on the team with 65 tackles. As a junior, he had 55 tackles, including another season with 15.5 that went for losses. That's also when he posted a career-high eight sacks.
"Langford has tremendous size as a rush end, and has the physical tools to defend the run. He makes a lot of plays in the backfield … (and has) ability to get around the edge," said Scout.com draft analyst Chris Steuber. "Langford was considered to be a first-day selection before this season, but it now seems likely he'll drop into Day Two and be a late third-round pick."
His college production didn't always translate in his Senior Bowl practices against Division I prospects.
"Langford didn't have success getting in the backfield," Steuber wrote after one full-pads practice session at the Senior Bowl. "He had trouble shedding blocks and didn't show much explosion off the line. Langford was a mid-round prospect entering the Senior Bowl and leaves Mobile with question marks heading into the Combine."
Of course, the Vikings have run-stuffing playmakers of their own on defense, but they could use all-out pass rushers most.
Kenechi Udeze stepped up from his sackless 2006 season and produced five sacks, but he is not considered a true pass-rushing defensive end. Udeze is best on the left side of the defensive line as a base end that is solid in run support as well. He can be a long-term starter, but he might not ever produce a double-digit sack season.
After suffering a season-ending knee injury in 2006, Erasmus James was just starting to get his burst back in the middle of the 2007 season and made his first start of the season on Dec. 2 against Detroit, but he quickly tore his anterior cruciate ligament in that game and was lost for the season once again.
And, of course, Ray Edwards didn't help his cause or the team's efforts when he was suspended for the final four games for violating the league's policy on anabolic steroid and related substances. Edwards was the team leader in sacks at that point with five sacks. Udeze and linebacker Ben Leber tied that mark by the end of the season.
At this point, it appears the Vikings have plenty of young defensive ends with potential but still lack that elite pass rusher.
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