The Minnesota Vikings‘ 2022 rookie class hasn’t contributed how the team hoped this season, however, there a lone bright spot is beginning to emerge with the playoffs in sight.
Third-round linebacker Brian Asamoah has impressed inside the building all season, and when his opportunity came, he broke out in a big way.
The 22-year-old linebacker forced and recovered a fumble with a punch that created a takeaway that gifted the Vikings three necessary points in an eventual 27-24 victory on Christmas Eve.
Asamoah is coming off back-to-back games seeing a significant uptick in usage, including a season-high 27 defensive snaps last Saturday.
KFAN sideline reporter and former Vikings linebacker Ben Leber called Asamoah a “ball of violence” with his speed and power. playing himself potentially into a starting role approaching the postseason.
“He’s just a ball of violence when he goes out there. He didn’t give up on it gets that right hand in there to knock the ball out and has the wherewithal to pick it up and run with it. It’s fun to see his electricity out there,” Leber said at halftime.
With Asamoah’s emergence in recent weeks, a pair of analysts have speculated the rookie could challenge veteran linebacker Jordan Hicks‘ role.
Brian Asamoah Challenging Starting Veteran LBs
On a December 26 airing of the SKOR North podcast, Judd Zulgad, reacting to Asamoah’s breakout performance that landed him a 91.3. Pro Football Focus grade last week, proposed a shift to playing the younger, faster Asamoah over the current veteran tandem of Eric Kendricks and Hicks.
“This league is now based on quickness. The linebacker position has changed almost more to a safety, a hybrid. Asamoah at one point and time was rotating in series. You’ve got to think this team is looking long and hard at finding ways to play Asamoah flat-out more because the speed that he brings against the approach is absolutely perfect,” Zulgad said.
“He might not be perfect in the pass game. He gave up a pass against the Giants caught up to the guy and forced the ball out. I just got to think Asamoah playing more snaps than Hicks is going to make more sense come playoffs.”
In the film breakdown below, Asamoah does hesitate before running with his assignment, but he recovered and made a game-tilting play. While watching a rookie rely on their athleticism to erase mistakes isn’t a desirable trait long term, it was one of the few mistakes Asamoah made — signaling he could replace either Kendricks or Hicks full-time next season.
“Man can he fly he can run. That would be something I would keep an eye on. Certainly, it’s trending toward a situation in 2023 where Brian Asamoah is going to be a starter,” KSTP’s Darren Wolfson added. “Is it at the expense that Eric Kendricks isn’t here? I don’t have the Jordan Hicks contract in front of me, but I’m just telling you Brian Asamoah is a starter.”
Vikings Brian Asamoah Has Ideal Traits of New Age LB
Gone are the days of linebackers solely getting downhill and crushing opposing running backs.
With more spread offenses, linebackers are becoming hybrid cover men who need to get sideline to sideline and attack the running lanes with instinct.
Asamoah has shown a high football IQ throughout his first season in the league to go along with his blazing speed. He tested in the 86th percentile of linebackers with a 4.56 40-time at the 2022 combine, per Mockdraftable.
He may be small at 6-foot, 226 pounds, but his 6-foot-8 wingspan (93rd percentile) coupled with his speed and ability to sniff out plays before they happen make him a devastating force in the second level. He’s relied on his mobility to get around blockers which can set him up to miss tackles and be unbalanced.
Asamoah, protected on the weak side, should be paired alongside one of the veterans to give Minnesota more diversity of weapons moving forward.