“The Bears are signing CB Joejuan Williams off the #Vikings practice squad onto their 53-man roster, source said. A former #Patriots second-rounder,” NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported on September 27.
The 45th overall pick of the 2019 draft, Williams spent four seasons with the New England Patriots as the sixth cornerback taken in his draft class. He was placed on the injured reserve list before the start of the 2022 season, rendering the final year of his contract as a wash.
Williams signed with the Vikings in free agency last April. At 6-foot-3, 212 pounds, he was the tallest cornerback on Minnesota’s roster. Williams didn’t make the final roster but cleared waivers and landed on the practiced squad.
He is slated for a reunion in Week 6, when the Vikings visit the Bears at Soldier Field on October 15.
Vikings D-Line Struggles Through 3 Games
The Vikings’ defensive struggles the past two games have been polar opposite of each other.
Against the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 2, The Vikings were bullied in the trenches, surrendering 259 rushing yards in a 34-28 loss.
In Week 3, the Vikings brought the fight to Justin Herbert, who was missing star running back Austin Ekler. Defensive coordinator Brian Flores blitzed on 82% of the Chargers’ dropbacks, the second-highest rate ever recorded by ESPN since 2006.
Herbert wasn’t shaken.
He completed 40 of 47 passes for 405 yards, an 85.1% completion rate that is the highest by any quarterback with at least 45 pass attempts in league history. The Vikings surrendered 445 passing yards when including Keenan Allen‘s touchdown throw, and it largely wasn’t on the cornerbacks.
While Allen had his way against the Vikings coverage, collecting 18 of 20 targets for 215 yards receiving, the defense’s struggles have largely leaned on the defensive line’s inability to create pressure.
According to TruMedia, the Vikings own the third-lowest pressure rate (27%) in the NFL despite being the most blitz-happy team in the league, sending five or more 65% of the time this season.
How Much Can Marcus Davenport Improve the Pass Rush?
Davenport has proven to be one of the most effective pass rushers in the league when healthy, but he’s played just a handful of snaps this season due to an ankle injury.
“Injuries once again hampered Davenport’s season, but he’s a remarkably effective pass rusher off the edge when healthy, and his talent alone could be worth the gamble in free agency – especially given the relative lack of edge rushers available,” Davenport’s bio on Pro Football Focus’ free-agent big board reads. “Since he entered the league in 2018, Davenport’s 17.8% pass-rush win rate and 13.9% pressure percentage are both top-20 marks among edge defenders, and he’s also earned a very respectable 82.1 run-defense grade for his career, which ranks 16th over the span.”
When Davenport returns, he will provide some needed pressure and can line up in the defensive interior, but he won’t move the needle much.
Defensive lineman Dean Lowry has rushed the passer 51 times and has yet to produce a single pressure. Meanwhile, Harrison Phillips, rushing from the nose tackle position, hasn’t had great success either, producing 6 pressures on 90 pass-rush snaps for a 4.5% win rate, per PFF.
The Vikings are without a dominant interior pass rusher and likely will need to search free agency or a trade to improve before this season slips from their grasp.