The Vikings’ defense was an abject disaster in most areas last season, ranking 27th overall in DVOA, 26th against the pass, and 19th against the run, but the list of people to blame for that (starting with former defensive coordinator Ed Donatell) should not include Tomlinson, who had his most productive season as a pass-rusher in 2022. New DC Brian Flores will improve things merely by his presence, but if the Vikings can’t get Tomlinson back, that will be a problem. Most human beings his size (6-foot-3 and a conservative 325 pounds) move to and through the pocket the way he does.
In 2022, Tomlinson was good for three sacks, seven quarterback hits, and 20 quarterback hurries in 348 pass-rushing snaps, and he had 26 stops in 256 run defense reps. He’s never had more than 658 snaps in a season though six years with the Vikings and Giants, so there is a rotational aspect to his game, but when Tomlinson is on the field for your defense, your defense is simply better.
This sack of Aaron Rodgers in Week 17 was just bad news for Packers right guard Jon Runyan Jr. for a couple of reasons: First, the Vikings were in a bear front with the defensive tackles to the outside shoulders of the guard, which forces one-on-ones. Second, Runyan had to deal with Tomlinson’s evil combination of stack-and-shed power, and quickness around the blocker when he’s beaten.
And if you’re trying a slide game to get your running back going against Tomlinson, you need to watch for his ability to penetrate on the move. Saquon Barkley of the Giants discovered that in the wild-card round on this three-yard loss.
Tomlinson is coming off the two-year, $21 million contract he got from the Vikings in 2021, which was a bargain then, and would be a bargain now.