With a 10-day break to take a hard look at its roster, the winless Minnesota Vikings made a pair of moves to make the team more competitive for the 2023 season.
The Vikings’ struggles running the ball led to the acquisitions of guard Dalton Risner and running back Cam Akers. Their run defense has been equally abysmal, sparking fans to call for one more move to equip the team to contend — signing veteran run-stuffer Akiem Hicks.
Fans called for Minnesota to sign Hicks this past week, prompting the former Chicago Bears Pro Bowl defensive lineman to respond with a post on X (formerly Twitter).
“That Viking love has been nice all day, I appreciate the interest. Always had fun strappin it on against you. As a competitor you hope to receive the respect of your opponent. The respect of the fan base is a very nice bonus. #skol,” Hicks wrote.
B/R Urges Vikings to Sign Akiem Hicks
The Hicks to Minnesota calls aren’t unfounded. Bleacher Report linked Hicks as an ideal free-agent signing that could solve the team’s deficiencies on the interior defensive front.
Hicks is highly-regarded by Vikings fans after years of shutting down Dalvin Cook in the run game, but Bleacher Report is also high on his pass-rush ability after posting 41.5 career sacks and 115 QB hits in his 11-year career.
“While the Vikings do have good run defenders on the interior of their defensive line, they’re lacking someone who can put pressure on the quarterback,” Bleacher Report’s staff wrote. “Hicks might be past his prime, but he could serve a rotational role by taking some of the pressure off Harrison Phillips, Jonathan Bullard and Dean Lowry on third downs with his 41.5 career sacks.”
The 33-year-old lineman is far from his Pro Bowl days but could be used as a rotational piece with veteran experience.
Vikings Defense Needs Another Run-Stopper
It hasn’t been pretty at times, but the Vikings’ defense is showing some signs of improvement under Brian Flores.
The Vikings’ difficulties in the run game led the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Philadelphia Eagles to play keep away, running the ball against a tired defense. Before Thursday, Phillips ranked third in defensive snaps (120) among defensive interior linemen — just two snaps behind the league leader, Jeffery Simmons.
Phillips is a proven run-stopper but undersized (6-foot-3, 308 pounds) at nose tackle. Khyiris Tonga was a prime candidate to take the nose tackle spot at 6-foot-3, 338 pounds, but the veteran Phillips got the nod. Tonga has played just 21 snaps this season, nine at nose tackle.
It’s only a matter of time before Phillips wears down, and that’s trended in both the Vikings’ losses. The Buccaneers averaged 10 plays per drive in the second half in Week 1. The Eagles chewed up the clock with second-half drives of 15 and 8 plays that consumed over 12 minutes of clock time.
The Vikings have faced more rushes than any team in the league entering Week 3, although they are holding opponents to 4.1 yards per carry, good for 18th in the league. The defense could benefit from not being stranded on the field due to stalled drives and turnovers, but Phillips needs some relief at nose tackle.