Dalvin Tomlinson brings much-needed help to the Minnesota Viking’s run defense, a defense that allowed the sixth-most rushing yards in 2020. To topple defending NFC North champion Green Bay Packers, the Vikings can’t stop there.
Improving the defense should ease things for Kirk Cousins heading into the 2021 season. The Vikings received a great return in trading Stefon Diggs to the Buffalo Bills to draft rookie star, Justin Jefferson. Getting the best pass rusher on the team back in Danielle Hunter is also major. But coming off a herniated disc, the question will loom if he’s the same player.
What Dalvin Tomlinson Brings to the Vikings Run Defense
Tomlinson has the 2nd-highest run stuff rate (5.1%) among interior DL since entering the league in 2017. Stopping the run is one of the most crucial things in football. Tomlinson brings a sinewy factor to the run game. Playing for the New York Giants, Tomlinson was asked to be a two-gap defender (being responsible for both A and B gaps). He took on double teams to free up linebackers and used his brute strength to fight off blocks to make plays.
But the Vikings run a different scheme. Tomlinson will be going from a 3-4 base defense to a one-gap (generally responsible for the B gap) 4-3. Minnesota already has a stout defensive tackle in Michael Pierce, who opted out in 2020. He will play nose tackle and Tomlinson will slide to three-technique (aligned on the outside shoulder of a guard.) And the chance for Tomlinson to get more takes for loss are there.
Having two colossal defensive tackles can hatch a refined defense. Restoring the linebacker core is essential to the run defense as well. Eric Kendricks and Anthony Barr are both returning from significant injuries and are vital for the rebirth of the defense. Having Hunter, Kendricks, Barr, and Tomlinson brings a ferocious edge to stop the run.
The Viking’s defensive line is still missing an Edge player to be paired with Hunter. Minnesota is likely to target a defensive end in the 2021 NFL Draft. Adding another edge rusher will aid the defensive backs in pass coverage.
Dalvin Tomlinson's best plays against the pass in 2020 pic.twitter.com/OdggaYmyoV
— Xavier Dixon (@GOOBVILLE) March 28, 2021
It’s clear Tomlinson’s impact will be felt more in the run game, but he can still affect the quarterback with pass deflections. Coming off his career-high in tackles for loss and quarterback hits, while matching his 2019 sack total (3.5.) The notion is that Tomlinson can ameliorate his pass rush win rate and boost his sack total.
Now being a one-gap defender, Tomlinson should see an increase in his production across the board. Instead of controlling the offensive line in a 3-4 system, he can seize the opportunity of getting to the quarterback solely (generally) through the B gap. Acquiring more one-on-one matchups will benefit Tomlinson tremendously.
Tomlinson’s pass rush productivity last year was 5.0%, 25th best of 53 starting DTs.
That’s comparable to Shelby Harris (5.3%), Suh (5.3%), Richardson (5.1%), Clark (4.5%) and Simmons (4.3%).
Shamar Stephen (1.5%) was 52nd of 53 last year.
Jaleel Johnson (1.3%) was 53rd. https://t.co/IasfgbJava
— Krauser (@Krauserrific) March 16, 2021
Minnesota tallied a mere 23 sacks in 2020, which was less than half (48) of the sack production in 2019. That directly showed how impactful Hunter is to the Viking’s pass-rush. Tomlinson brings availability considering he’s never missed a game in the NFL. The Vikings need the help of the pass-rush extensively.
Tomlinson Brings a Welcome Change to Minny
The Minnesota Vikings gaining Dalvin Tomlinson will affect the defense and several ways. Addressing the 27th-ranked run defense was huge for head coach Mike Zimmer. Tomlinson has significant pressure on him to succeed as a pass rusher. Moving from his traditional nose tackle position could take some adjusting to get to.
If Tomlinson can be a force in the passing game, his reps will likely increase on third downs and or passing situations. In New York, he was mainly sidelined when teams would spread the field with the threat of passing. Minnesota has gained a marque run-suffer, but the questions will loom on how effective Tomlinson will be in the passing game.