Defensive end Everson Griffen returned to the Minnesota Vikings this season with the plan to be a reserve, but he’s now entrenched as a starter.
Co-defensive coordinator Andre Patterson said Wednesday that Griffen will start his second straight game on Sunday at Carolina. In the first three games of the season, Griffen was a reserve in two and missed one with a concussion before getting his first start in Sunday’s 19-17 win over Detroit ahead of D.J. Wonnum. He responded with two sacks, giving him four in the past three games.
“As long as he’s playing good, he deserves (to start),’’ Patterson said. “That’s who I am. If you’re playing good, you should be starting. It’s nothing against D.J. D.J. is getting better. But I mean, Everson Griffen being Everson Griffen should be better than D.J. Wonnum. Everson Griffen is a four-time Pro Bowler, right? D.J. is a second-year player coming along.”
Griffen, who made his four Pro Bowls while playing for Minnesota from 2010-19, re-signed in August. Patterson admits he’s a bit surprised at how much better he looks now than he did last season with Dallas and Detroit.
“I can say a little bit yes, because you judge him how he played on the other two teams, and to me he didn’t look like the Everson that I know and love.’’ Patterson said.
While the plan is for Griffen to again start, it remains to be seen if he plays as much as he did against the Lions, when he was in for a season-high 49 snaps. Head coach Mike Zimmer said Monday that Griffen “probably played too much,” but Patterson said Wednesday that the Vikings at the end of the game being in a nickel, rather than a base defense, dictated that.
Is Minnesota’s Alexander Mattison the best backup running back in the NFL?
“I’ll leave that to the critics, but there definitely would be an argument,’’ he said. “You can’t ignore some of the statistics and some of the facts and the film.”
With starter Dalvin Cook being out Sept. 26 against Seattle and against Detroit due to a sprained right ankle, Mattison had rushing outings of 112 and 113 yards, respectively.
The only drawback against the Lions was a fumble he lost at the Minnesota 20, allowing them to soon take a 17-16 lead with 37 seconds left. But Greg Joseph won the game with a 54-yard field goal on the final play.
Mattison has said that Cook comforted him after the lost fumble, and he was grateful for that.
“I was just making sure his mentals were OK, and once he saw the field goal go in, he gave me a big hug,’’ Cook said.
Quarterback Kirk Cousins recently made a $500,000 donation to the Vikings social justice committee.
“It’s just been very impressive the way the players have led, and there’s just been players very involved,” he said.
Cousins, a member of the committee, called the donation a “no-brainer.”
“It touched my heart,’’ said Patterson, also a member of the committee. “Very, very grateful for him to do that.’’