Vikings Poach Former Rams Edge Rusher From Super Bowl Contender

Benton Whitley

Getty The Kansas City Chiefs have cut former Los Angeles Rams DE Benton Whitley.

The Minnesota Vikings added some much-needed depth to their defense on Wednesday.

Minnesota signed former Los Angeles Rams outside linebacker Benton Whitley on October 19, per a team release. Whitley, undrafted out of Holy Cross last spring, spent the preseason with the Rams, earning a practice-squad spot in Los Angeles.

The Kansas City Chiefs poached him off the Rams practice squad on September 21, offering him a spot on the 53-man roster as a depth piece to the team’s top-10 pass-rushing unit. Whitley bounced between the active roster and the practice squad before the Vikings signed him off the Chiefs practice squad on Wednesday.

Benton Whitley the ‘Hardest Worker in the Room’

Playing five seasons at Holy Cross, Whitley tallied 15.5 sacks in 42 games for the Crusaders along with 111 total tackles (79 solo, 26.5 for a loss). He added two passes defended and one forced fumble.

Weighing in at 6-foot-4, 260 pounds, the 23-year-old pass rusher was scouted as a defensive end with “very good flexibility, average size and straight-line athleticism,” per The NFL Draft Bible.

From The NFL Draft Bible: “Displays great bend and agility which allows him to flatten back to the quarterback while accelerating. Whitley beats slow-footed blockers with horizontal pads by crossing their face with his lateral quickness. His hand placement on pass rush moves is very good, being consistently on time and on target… Whitley recognizes oversets and counters inside. Showing mental alertness, he gets his hands into throwing lanes in the quick game.”

Whitley has earned a stake in the NFL with his blend of athleticism, bend and work ethic. His high school football and wrestling coach, Will Nickerson, called him “the hardest worker in the room.

“You hear that analogy a lot, but that is Benton Whitley,” Nickerson said, offering a story of Whitley wagering cookies at lunchtime on who would receive the highest grade on an exam. “He was competitive in everything he did.”

The biggest critique against Whitley was a lack of explosiveness and “violence” as a pass-rusher and a tackler, which led NFL Draft Bible to deem him a “liability in the run game” coming out of college.

“Whitley projects as a developmental pass rusher who has desirable traits with his agility and should be a capable special teamer,” NFL Draft Bible concluded. “If he can add significant strength in the NFL, he can become a rotational player.”

Vikings Pass Rush Alive in Week 6

After a troubling start to the season, the Vikings’ pass rush came alive in Week 6 against the Miami Dolphins, posting a season-best 85.0 Pro Football Focus grade.

Za’Darius Smith led the way with two sacks, two hits and seven hurries for 11 pressures and a 92.0 PFF defensive grade. Starting running mate Danielle Hunter found his footing after a slow start to the season with a sack, two hits and three hurries for six total pressures and a 90.2 defensive grade. Second-year edge rusher Patrick Jones was third with four total pressures on two sacks and two hurries for a 76.2 defensive grade.

The Vikings’ 32 pressures on 55 Dolphins dropbacks marks a 58.8% pressure rate is the second week in a row Minnesota has set a new season-high in pressures after posting 20 against the Chicago Bears in Week 5.

Minnesota hadn’t posted a PFF pass-rush grade above 70.0 since Week 1 before Sunday’s demolition of the Dolphins offensive front.

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