In his first two seasons with the Vikings, Everson Griffen had more tackles on special teams (26) than he did on the Vikings defense (22). Late in the 2011 season, he was given a chance to see more playing time and took advantage of it, recording four sacks while showing the versatility to play both defensive end and linebacker.
With depth questions at linebacker, the Vikings employed the Griffen Experiment, moving him to linebacker early in training camp until the coaching staff was satisfied it had enough talent at the position to move him back to D-line.
Since then, Griffen has made his presence felt, recording 32 tackles, five sacks, 21 quarterback hurries, one interception (which he returned for a touchdown) and two fumble recoveries. He has been given his best opportunity to date to show what he is capable of and has made the most of the chances when they have arrived.
“I’ve just been trying to take advantage of every opportunity I’ve been given,” Griffen said. “Whether it was splitting time between the defensive line and linebacker during training camp or the opportunities I’ve had during the season, I’ve been giving my best. Whatever they’ve asked me to do, I’ve tried to do it to the best of my ability to help make our team better. There’s always room for improvement, but I think I’ve been doing pretty well.”
Coming out of college at USC, Griffen was viewed by many, including ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper, as a first-round talent – projecting him 29th in his annual draft book mock draft. Many others, including us, had him rated a late-first, early-second round pick, with his primary drawback being immaturity, a lack of focus and some off-field run-ins with the law.
The result was that a player with a first- or second-round grade based strictly on game tape didn’t get drafted on Day One of the 2010 draft. Or Day Two. He went on Day Three in the fourth round, where, historically speaking, players with talent and red flags come off the board in a hurry.
Griffen doesn’t hold any resentment over his draft weekend snub. He has long since taken ownership of it and has used it to light a fire under himself to get better and prove that he was worthy of being taken earlier in the draft than he was when he fell to the Vikings with the first pick on the third day of the 2010 draft.
“I did some stuff in college that I knew would affect my draft stock,” Griffen said. “I ended up dropping a couple of rounds farther than I thought I would, but I put the blame all on me. There was nobody else that caused my stock to fall other than me and some of the situations I got myself into. I’ve been grinding ever since to get to the point that I can be counted on to be a big contributor to this team and I think that’s starting to show up.
“It was disappointing at the time, but I’ve used it as motivation since,” Griffen said. “It’s helped me to realize that nothing is guaranteed and that you have to work hard to get your spot on the team and even harder to keep it. I’ve spent the last three years trying to prove myself and I believe it’s paying off now.”
As the Vikings look to lock down their first postseason berth since Griffen joined the team. He hopes to play a critical role in the Vikings crossing the finish line and getting to the playoffs and isn’t going to let the recent accolades he has received change the fire that has pushed him during the bad times.
“I’ve just got to keep on doing it,” Griffen said. “You can’t get caught up on what people say about you – good or bad. At first, I was hearing bad things about me and I didn’t let that get me down. Now I’m hearing good things, but you have to treat it the same way. Don’t let it affect what you do. My focus is on doing everything within my power to help this team. If I make the most of these opportunities, more of them will come down the line.”
VIKINGS-PACKERS BY THE NUMBERS
The Vikings have the 23rd-ranked offense in the NFL (3rd rushing, 32nd passing) and the 16th-ranked defense (13th rushing, 20th passing). The Packers have the 13th-ranked offense (20th passing, 10th rushing) and the 10th ranked defense (14th rushing, 12th passing).
The Vikings are third in rushing yards overall, but lead the league in average per rushing attempt (5.4 yards).
The Vikings are averaging 329 yards a game (168 passing, 161 rushing). The Packers are averaging 356 yards a game (248 passing, 108 rushing).
Defensively, the Vikings are allowing 346 yards a game (238 passing, 108 rushing). Green Bay is allowing 330 yards a game (218 passing, 112 rushing).
Green Bay is ninth in giveaway/takeaway ratio at plus-8 (23 takeaways, 15 giveaways). Minnesota is 21st at minus-2 (21 takeaways, 23 giveaways).
Green Bay’s 15 giveaways are tied for second in the league. Only Washington (14) has turned the ball over fewer times.
Green Bay is third in red zone offense, scoring touchdowns on 28 of 43 possessions (65.1 percent). The Vikings are tied for 18th at 52.2 percent (24 of 46).
Defensively, the Vikings are 26th in the red zone, allowing touchdowns on 27 of 47 possessions (57.4 percent). Green Bay is 27th at 61 percent (25 TDs in 41 possessions).
Green Bay is eighth in third-down conversion percentage at 42 percent (84 of 200). The Vikings are 22nd at 36.4 percent (72 of 198). The league average is 38 percent.
Green Bay is 15th in third-down defense at 37.4 percent (77 conversions in 206 attempts). Minnesota is 26th at 41 percent (89 of 217).
Aaron Rodgers has four 300-yard passing games. Christian Ponder has one.
The Packers have allowed four 300-yard passers while the Vikings have allowed three.
The Vikings have three 100-yard receiving games, all by injured wide receiver Percy Harvin. Green Bay has six 100-yard receiving games – three by Randall Cob, two by Jordy Nelson and one by James Jones.
Adrian Peterson has nine 100-yard rushing games. Green Bay has none.
Peterson has two of the top five individual rushing games in the NFL this season and four of the top 12. The only other player with more than one of the top 12 rushing games is Jamaal Charles of Kansas City.
The Vikings have allowed four 100-yard rushing games and Green Bay has allowed two.
The Vikings’ four 100-yard rushing games came in four consecutive games from Oct. 14 to Nov. 4. The Vikings haven’t allowed a 100-yard rusher in the last seven games.
Rodgers is 14th in the league in pass attempts (512), eighth in completions (343), fourth in completion percentage (67.0), ninth in yards (3,930), second in touchdowns (35), tied for sixth in interceptions (8), and first in passer rating (106.2).
Ponder is 19th in attempts (455), 19th in completions (284), 14th in completion percentage (62.4), 25th in yards, 34th in average gain per pass (5.94 yards), 23rd in touchdowns (15), tied for 17th in interceptions (12) and 26th in passer rating (78.8).
Rodgers is second in fourth-quarter passer rating at 113.9. Ponder is 24th at 82.1.
Rodgers is second in third-down passer rating at 108.0. Ponder is 24th at 72.9.
Peterson leads the NFL with 1,898 rushing yards – 408 yards more than second-place Marshawn Lynch. Alex Green leads the Packers with 464 yards, which ranks him 36th in the league.
Cobb ranks 13th in the league with 80 receptions. Despite missing the last six games, Harvin still leads the Vikings with 62 receptions.
Cobb is 19th in receiving yards with (954). Harvin still leads the Vikings with 677 receiving yards, which ranks him 55th in the league.
Jones is second in the league in scoring among non-kickers with 78 points (13 touchdowns). Peterson is sixth with 68 points (11 touchdowns and one 2-point conversion). Kyle Rudolph is 17th in scoring with 56 points (nine touchdowns and a 2-point conversion).
Blair Walsh is tied for fourth in scoring with 128 points. Mason Crosby is tied for 18th with 103 points.
Walsh is fourth in the league in touchbacks with 49. Crosby is 14th with 35.
Peterson leads the league in yards from scrimmage with 2,113 (1,898 rushing, 215 receiving) – 221 yards more than second-place Calvin Johnson. Cobb leads Green Bay with 1,084 yards (954 receiving, 132 rushing), which ranks him 33rd in the league.
Peterson is tied for second in first downs with 84 (75 rushing, nine receiving) – four behind Calvin Johnson. Cobb is tied for 31st with 52 (45 receiving, seven rushing).
Green Bay rookie Casey Hayward is tied for fifth in interceptions with six. Harrison Smith and Antoine Winfield are tied for the lead for the Vikings with three each.
Despite missing all of four games and most of a fifth, Clay Matthews is sixth in the league with 12 sacks. Jared Allen is tied for 10th with 11 sacks.
Chad Greenway is second in the league with 145 tackles, six behind Carolina rookie linebacker Luke Kuechly.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.