Before Tom Brady switched over to G.O.A.T. mode, before Julian Edelman made that ridiculous circus catch, before the Falcons pushed themselves out of position for what would have likely been a title-sealing field goal and before James White won the Super Bowl with his third touchdown of the night, Grady Jarrett had a strong case to be Super Bowl MVP.
Jarrett, a second-year defensive tackle for the Falcons, had a record-tying three sacks of Brady as the Falcons pounded the Patriots quarterback for the first three quarters of the night. His ability to generate quick pressure on the interior prevented Brady from getting settled in the pocket.
While Jarrett recorded only four sacks in his first two (regular) seasons, the 2015 fifth-round draft pick who was selected somewhere between T.J. Clemmings and MyCole Pruitt was decently disruptive before his breakout Super Bowl, ranking 21st in PFF’s pass-rushing grades for inside guys.
The point of this post is not to say that the Vikings erred by not drafting Jarrett, who lasted into the fifth round in part because he is only 6-feet-0, though feel free to argue that in the comments section if you want.
I’m bringing up Jarrett’s performance as a reminder that the Vikings must look to find a similar interior disruptor this offseason after Sharrif Floyd, the oft-injured former first-round pick, was unable to become that guy. As a result, the Vikings may move on from Floyd in the coming weeks.
With Floyd missing most of the 2016 season, the Vikings were forced to rely heavily on Tom Johnson and Shamar Stephen to fill the void at the three-technique spot in Mike Zimmer’s defense. Johnson has been a good pass rusher in a limited role but struggled with the large workload and Stephen, a solid run defender, brought little as a quarterback chaser.
Veteran defensive end Brian Robison helped fill the void by moving inside in obvious passing situations. He finished the season with 7.5 sacks.
While the committee at that key spot in Zimmer’s scheme helped the Vikings have one of the NFL’s better pass rushes, the rush can go from good to great if they can get Zimmer his next Geno Atkins, the undersized five-time Pro Bowl tackle whom Zimmer helped develop in Cincinnati.
With Everson Griffen and Danielle Hunter flying in off the edges and a top-notch tackle consistently beating centers and guards to push the pocket like Grady did last night, quarterbacks will have nowhere to run.