The last four years have been kind to Minnesota Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen.
Drafted in the fourth round of the 2010 NFL Draft, Griffen only started one game in his first four seasons, This changed in 2014 once Griffen signed a five-year contract worth $42.5M as a crucial part of the revamped Mike Zimmer-led defense.
Starting all 16 games, Griffen finished with a career high 12 sacks, and was named NFC Defensive Player of the Month in October of that year. In turn, this led to better things to come.
The following two years has allowed Griffen to enjoy a couple of Pro Bowl births. He was also featured in the NFL Top 100 Players of 2017, and signed another contract extension that will keep him in Minnesota through 2022.
This season, one can argue Griffen has never gone on a better stretch.
Recording a sack in each game of the season up to this point, #97 has 6.5 sacks on the year. He would be on pace for approximately 21 sacks in a full regular season, which would be tied for fifth all time. (Minnesota’s team record is 22 from Jared Allen in 2011, which itself is .5 away from Michael Strahan’s single season record in 2001)
Griffen has been able to garner more attention this season, thanks in part to the Vikings playing in two Monday Night games through the first five weeks, where he put on outstanding performances. The stretch he has gone on has allowed him to become a legitimate Defensive Player of the Year candidate.
In my opinion, Griffen is the guy that should lead the DPOY campaign.
Griffen is a gifted, physical freak leading a Vikings defense that is loaded with physical freaks. He is one of the most talented outside defensive ends in the game, combining a rare peak style of power, speed, and balance to make for one of the most intimidating defensive players of our generation.
It’s not just the sacks he’s generated; Griffen is getting constant pressure regardless of who he faces. We’re talking the “once in a lifetime” kind of pressure, the kind that has been achieved in the following ways.
Griffen was never able to be one of the best defenders in the league his first four years, but that was because of his limited reps. After his first contract extension, a wider audience was able to see the massive skill set the outside DE boasted at long last.
As with any quality defensive lineman, Griffen uses all sorts of moves to get to the quarterback. That he’s able to dominate against some of the best offensive lines in the league is a testament to his greatness.
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is one of the toughest quarterbacks to sack not just because of his size, but because the Steelers have one of the best lines in the NFL. On this play, Griffen jukes out the left tackle with a spin move, using perfect balance to stay on foot and hop towards Big Ben, finally able to get him and bring him down for a sack.
Griffen’s balance is crazy for someone of his size. He moves like a patient running back in small gaps yet is also one of the more aggressive defenders in the league.
As well as being one of the more dangerous defensive ends in the league, Griffen is also one of the smartest. Obviously for edge pressure to be created, not only do you need the physical ability to get to the quarterback, you also need the mental ability.
On this play, it would be very easy for Griffen to stop the end around option (#10) and stay inside, but instead he stays outside once he notices the end around fake. The back in the backfield is used as a pawn, and #97 sniffs that out immediately. With his patience having succeeded, he blasts towards Jameis Winston, who has nowhere to run as Griffen takes him down. It’s an easy sack, but a deserved sack at that.
It goes without saying Everson Griffen is very powerful. At 6’3 and 273 lb, he is one of the toughest DEs to take down. No such play highlighted the 29-year-old’s power like the play above. Griffen is held on this play but still manages to pull the left tackle with him and sack Matthew Stafford for one of his more impressive plays on the season.
Ability Against The Run
Since he’s a threat in the pass attack, you can guess that Griffen is also a threat against the run. Despite his size, he is extremely athletic, as is shown on this diving tackle. After swooping past the left guard, Griffen has to reach a considerable distance just to pull Zach Zenner to the turf. He does so with a shoestring tackle for a loss, highlighting his ability against the run.
Timing And Speed
The key ingredient to Griffen’s monster first quarter of the season has been how he’s able to not only time the snap, but use his speed to get around the edge protection.
Both of these snaps are timed perfectly. Griffen doesn’t get the sack in the first GIF, but is able to use perfect footwork and technique, forcing Stafford out of the pocket and eventually throw a dropped interception.
The second play is more impressive, as Griffen snaps the exact second the ball is released. There’s nothing the left tackle or Mitchell Trubisky can do here. Griffen’s athleticism is unstoppable on these types of plays, and as such he makes the strip sack look easy.
Everson Griffen is a phenomenal player that has been slept on for so long. He’s the best player on a stacked Vikings defense, and one can argue he’s the best player on this team period.
The combination of swift athleticism, power, balance, aggressiveness and patience has made the 8-year vet a rare talent in today’s game. Few defenders are playing in the same ballpark as him, and as far as I’m concerned no one can touch him as the Defensive Player of the Year frontrunner.
It’s early, but Everson Griffen is my DPOY without hesitation.
Featured image via twin cities.com