Vikings Run-Stopper Steal Named 2023 Breakout Player

Kevin O'Connell, Vikings

Getty Head coach Kevin O'Connell of the Minnesota Vikings looks on during a game against the Chicago Bears in January 2023.

If the Minnesota Vikings hope to repeat last year’s success in 2023, winning in the margins is crucial.

The Vikings made a couple such moves in 2022, including picking up defensive tackle Khyiris Tonga off the Atlanta Falcons‘ practice squad in October after the Chicago Bears let him go in August during the final round of preseason cuts. Tonga played a minimal role for the Vikings last year but was exceptional when he found his way onto the field.

After Dalvin Tomlinson’s exit to the Cleveland Browns this offseason, Tonga is expected to step into a major role on Minnesota’s defensive line, which struggled mightily against the run during crucial moments last season. Zoltán Buday of Bleacher Report on Friday, May 19, went so far as to name Tonga  the most likely breakout candidate on the Vikings’ roster in next season.

Khyiris Tonga Expected to Start for Vikings Next Season

Khyiris Tonga, Vikings

GettyDefensive tackle Khyiris Tonga of the Minnesota Vikings tackles running back Aaron Jones of the Green Bay Packers during a game in January 2023.

Minnesota re-upped with Tonga over the offseason after his outstanding performance in 2022, betting he will follow the same trajectory that Buday is predicting for the run-stuffer next season.

“The Vikings brought the third-year defensive lineman back on a team-friendly one-year deal, but he is expected to play a big role on the Minnesota defense as a starting interior defender,” Buday wrote. “While he only played 300 snaps for the Vikings in 2022, he carved out a role as their top interior run defender. His 73.3 run-defense grade ranked 16th among interior defenders, and the former seventh-round pick can take another leap in his first full season as a starter in 2023.”

Minnesota finished the season 20th against the run in ground yards allowed (2,093) while surrendering an average of 4.5 yards per carry against opposing rushing attacks, per

Rookie Receiver Jordan Addison Also Breakout Candidate For Vikings

Jordan Addison

GettyWide receiver Jordan Addison of the Minnesota Vikings is expected to compete for a starting job in 2023.

Another potential breakout candidate for the Vikings next season is rookie wide receiver Jordan Addison, who the team selected No. 23 overall in the first round of this year’s NFL Draft.

Justin Jefferson has established himself as the clear top option at wide receiver in Minnesota. Addison was drafted to compete with K.J. Osborn for the No. 2 spot after the team cut long-time wideout Adam Thielen in the interest of salary cap savings.

Addison won the Biletnikoff Award as the nation’s top collegiate wide receiver in 2021 while playing for the University of Pittsburgh, hauling in 100 catches for 1,593 yards and 17 touchdowns. He transferred to USC in 2022, where he recorded 59 grabs for 875 yards and eight scores last year, per Football Reference.

The passing game could become even more critical for Minnesota next season, as the team appears likely to part ways with running back Dalvin Cook. The Vikings can save $9 million against the cap by cutting Cook after June 1, while they can save $11 million by trading the running back after that date.

Minnesota re-signed Alexander Mattison for two years this offseason, indicating that the team plans to move forward with Cook’s backup as the starter in 2023.

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