Can Jerry Tillery Give Vikings What They Need?

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Los Angeles Chargers
Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY SportsCredit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Vikings interior pass rush was putrid last season. According to Pro Football Focus (PFF) last year, 187 defenders rushed the passer at least 200 times. Vikings defensive tackles Harrison Phillips and Jonathan Bullard ranked 176th and 185th, respectively, out of those 187. It’s a legitimate concern to see what the Vikings interior pass rush solution will be this season.

Can Jerry Tillery resurrect his first-round pedigree for the Minnesota Vikings?

Until the games are played, current defensive tackle Jerry Tillery could be the solution to generate more pressure from the interior, at least according to Alec Lewis (The Athletic). Tillery was originally drafted in the first-round by the Los Angeles Chargers in 2019. In addition to his time with the Chargers, he also played two seasons for the Las Vegas Raiders before signing with the Minnesota Vikings this offseason.

“One quick answer might be Jerry Tillery, who ranked 88th on that list. Plug him in, and the Vikings should penetrate further, even if he is nowhere close to the stratosphere occupied by Quinnen WilliamsChris Jones or Aaron Donald.

Alec Lewis (The Athletic)

Although Tillery has failed to live up to his first-round pedigree, Tillery did post a 67.5 pass rush grade per PFF. Not great but not terrible either. For reference, Phillips and Dean Lowry each put up a pass rush grade of 53.6 in 2023. This was highest on the team, for the interior defensive line, for players over 100 snaps.

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It still remains to be seen whether or not Tillery will even make the roster after training camp this year. He was given a one-year deal worth up to $3.75M but got $1.47M in guaranteed money.

He’ll definitely have to prove himself for the remainder of the offseason if he wants to make the team, but Lewis thinks he could be the “quick answer” for improvement for the interior pass rushing unit compared to last season.

If not Jerry Tillery, what else can the Minnesota Vikings do to improve their interior pass rush?

If not Tillery, the Minnesota Vikings could see an increase in their use of stunts. Lewis noted that defensive coordinator Brian Flores opted for a max-pressure, max-coverage approach, but the defensive line movement seemed mostly vanilla. In 2023, the Vikings used pass stunts on 23% of their defensive snaps (27th in the NFL), according to PFF, whereas Flores’ 2021 Miami Dolphins used pass stunts on 30% of the snaps (3rd in the NFL).

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In addition to more stunts, Lewis lastly noted that the improvement in the edge-rushing unit could pay dividends as well. Although the Minnesota Vikings lost longtime veteran Danielle Hunter, they did infuse the roster with two solid edge rushers Jonathan Greenard and Andrew Van Ginkel in free agency, while also drafting Dallas Turner in the first-round of the 2024 NFL draft.

It seems like if these solutions or ideas do not improve the interior pass rush on the defensive line this upcoming season, it might finally be time to invest some big money or draft capital for a game-changing defensive tackle in 2025.

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