The Minnesota Vikings carried five defensive ends on their 52-man roster last season, but that number would’ve been less if not for the special-teams value of a few.
The team entered this year’s camp with eight defensive ends on its roster, so several cuts and practice squad assignments are ahead.
Two of the eight defensive ends in camp are 30-plus in age: mainstay veterans Everson Griffen (30) and Brian Robison (35). Then there’s mainstay that plays like a veteran who is primed for a big season, Danielle Hunter (23).
The remaining five are all under age of 24 – Jonathan Wynn (22), Tashawn Bower (23), Stephen Weatherly (24), Ifeadi Odenigbo (24), and Ade Aruna (24). Seven, if Vikings fourth-round rookie defensive tackle – 22-year-old Jalyn Holmes – plays any snaps during the season out of his natural college position, defensive end.
With few defensive end spots available, and Anthony Barr’s deployments sometimes slating him to come off the edge like a quasi-defensive end, players at that position who are on the bubble need to bring special-teams value in order to make the final roster.
Weatherly played in 15 games and 8.9 percent of the team’s overall defensive snaps in 2017, and added a significant punch on special teams—in on 45.1 percent of all special teams plays.
Aruna, Minnesota’s sixth-round pick out of Tulane, according to 9-To-Noon’s and Voice of the Vikings Paul Allen isn’t likely destined for one the final 53-roster spots but is a “cinch for one of the coveted practice-squad spots”.
Bower is in his second year out of LSU after making the 2017 roster as an undrafted free agent. He played only five special teams snaps and 10 defensive snaps all season, but managed to record a sack in Week 11 against the Los Angeles Rams.
Odenigbo was a 2017 seventh-round draft pick by Minnesota and was signed to a Reserve/Future contract in January 2018, which meant he was to be added to the 90-man roster when the new league year began, and have the ability to compete for a roster spot through the offseason as he’s currently doing.
Wynn would like to be known for more than playing alongside Weatherly at Vanderbilt, and will try to find his spot with the team after being called by Mike Zimmer personally when picked up as an undrafted free agent (UDFA). He’s the youngest of the eight and will need to show he’s a special teams gunner or blocking protector in order to have a chance.
Joe Perovich is an on-air announcer and writer at KFAN, and can be reached on Twitter (@JoePerovich) or by email (JoePerovich@iheartmedia.com)