E Point Perfect

Will Vikings ‘Pass-Rushing Gem’ Make the Team?


Will Vikings 'Pass-Rushing Gem' Make the Team?
Dec 4, 2021; Charlotte, NC, USA; Wake Forest Demon Deacons defensive lineman Luiji Vilain. Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports.

The Minnesota Vikings must have the existing roster sliced down to 53 men by August 30 — less than three weeks away. Thirty-seven men currently on the lengthy depth chart won’t be a part of regular-season plans and will either land on the team’s practice squad or hit free agency.

Among the “bubble players” is rookie EDGE rush Luiji Vilain, who Minnesota found as an undrafted free agent soon after the 2022 NFL Draft.

Vilain was identified by Chris Trapasso of CBS Sports on Tuesday as a “must-see” rookie to watch in the preseason, a rather odd-but-neat inclusion for the undrafted 24-year-old. Trapasso highlighted his interest in Vilain and instructed readers to keep an eye on the Wake Forest alumnus, “Vilain was one of the final prospects I watched in the 2022 class, and I instantly felt lucky, because he’s a pass-rushing gem.”

7 Predictions for Vikings Training Camp
Jun 7, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings outside linebacker Luiji Vilian. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

The Vikings have an interesting pass-rusher situation on their hands for 2022, making the speculation about Vilain’s possible addition to the 53-man roster mysterious. New general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah signed former Green Bay Packers pass rusher Za’Darius Smith in March to pair with a returning-to-health Danielle Hunter. Together, Smith and Hunter were immediately cast as one of the two EDGE combos in the business.

After those two players, though, the depth chart becomes murky — and not necessarily in a bad way. Minnesota has a litany of defenders who might emerge as formidable alternatives to Smith and Hunter, but they’re just that for now — mights.

Vilain is a protagonist in that movie.

Vikings New 'Vilain' Gets More Acclaim
Luiji Vilain

Vilain spent time at the Unversity of Michigan before transferring to Wake Forest in 2021. And admittedly, he is semi-famous for his catchy name. He was sensational last year at Wake Forest, tallying eight sacks and nine tackles for loss in 12 games.

Moreover, Vilain signed with the Vikings for $227,000 in guaranteed money — a lot for an undrafted free agent, indicating he’ll be around the organization for a while. The question for the next three weeks — is the prognosis for a roster spot or a trip to the practice squad in 2022?

These are the men vying for EDGE rusher gigs in Minnesota:

  • Danielle Hunter
  • Patrick Jones II
  • Zach McCloud
  • Andre Mintze
  • Janarius Robinson
  • Za’Darius Smith
  • Luiji Vilain
  • D.J. Wonnum

The Vikings will likely keep five or six of those players, so Vilain must avoid receiving an “odd man out” fate. Smith, Hunter, Jones II, and Wonnum are likely 53-man roster nominees. After that, the cutoff is unclear.

The good part for Vilian is that he should be able to shatter second and third-team competition in preseason games, at least according to his collegiate style of play. That bodes well for his regular-season plans. Vikings starters aren’t likely to play too many preseason snaps, so men like Vilain, Wonnum, Jones II, McCloud, Mintze, and Robinson will receive ample playing time.

Vilain is probably destined for a practice-squad stint in 2022, but the preseason can be his canvas.

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 Sally from Minneapolis. His Viking fandom dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ and The Doors (the band).


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