The Minnesota Vikings defense seemed to hit stride in Weeks 9 and 10 at the Washington Commanders and Buffalo Bills. Kevin O’Connell’s team was sharpening defensively for what many believed would be an honest-to-goodness Super Bowl push.
In hindsight, though, that was the pinnacle. Minnesota’s defense floundered after defeating the Bills in New York and did not recover, culminating in an embarrassing home playoff loss to the New York Giants.
Meet PFF’s 2023 Breakout Candidate for the Vikings
So, here we are, combing through the offseason on the hunt for silver linings. And Pro Football Focus provided precisely that this week, labeling rookie linebacker Brian Asamoah as the team’s early 2023 breakout candidate.
PFF nominated one such player from every NFL team, and for the Vikings, the freakishly athletic defender earned the title. Sam Monson from PFF mentioned about Asamoah, “The Vikings need to get younger and more athletic on defense, and that’s a cue for linebacker Brian Asamoah to take on a bigger role in 2023.”
Asamoah fired up a wildly impressive 78.8 PFF grade in 2022 on 121 defensive plays and 285 special teams snaps.
“The rookie played just 121 snaps this season but flashed playmaking ability during those snaps — he single-handedly created a turnover with a forced fumble and recovery against the Giants in Week 16,” Monson added.
And the Vikings needed every little drop of Asamoah’s production — and promise of future potential — because the team’s linebacking corps appeared to slow down in 2022. Veterans Eric Kendricks and Jordan Hicks performed decently this season, but most NFL teams employ a little bit more speed at the position. Speed is Asamoah’s modus operandi, logging a 4.56 forty-yard dash at the 2022 NFL combine.
Too, Asamoah’s stock is trending north as the Vikings are unlikely to retain Kendricks and Hicks. In fact, fans shouldn’t be stunned one iota if the Vikings sever ties with both men before the start of the 2023 regular season. If that happens, Asamoah is nearly guaranteed to start because if not Asamoah, then who?
Asamoah’s brightest rookie moment occurred in Week 16 against the New York Giants, forcing a fumble, recovering it himself, and scampering for 10 yards. The play was ultra-pivotal, and it helped the Vikings later knock off the Giants (the regular season game with New York) thanks to a franchise-record-setting 61-yard field from Greg Joseph.
The PFF article wasn’t limited to Vikings personnel, and these are the men to monitor in the NFC North in 2023 and beyond:
- Chicago Bears = Braxton Jones (OT)
- Detroit Lions = Jameson Williams (WR)
- Green Bay Packers = Jordan Love (QB)
Asamoah will turn 23 in March.
Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sal Spice. His Vikings obsession dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ and The Doors (the band).
All statistics provided by Pro Football Reference / Stathead; all contractual information provided by OverTheCap.com.