Three lineup changes the Vikings can make going forward

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At 5-5, the Vikings are at a crossroads: Minnesota can falter under high expectations or win more games to secure a postseason berth.

Minnesota has a plethora of crucial decisions to make if it wants to be successful the rest of the way. With how difficult the Vikings’ schedule is, it seems more than likely that the team will need to pull off upsets if it has any hope of turning 2021 into something memorable.

Here are three lineup decisions the Vikings can make down the road:

Add Kenny Willekes to the 53-man roster

Photo: AP Photo/Bruce Kluckhohn

Willekes played well in the Ravens and Cowboys games. The Vikings edge rusher still resides on the practice squad, however. Minnesota DE Danielle Hunter went down with a season-ending pec injury, so the Vikings need more depth at edge rusher. At this point, Willekes has earned a full-time spot in the defensive line rotation and the 53-man roster. He may not be a starting-caliber player, but he can still serve an important role.

Add Armon Watts to the starting lineup permanently

Photo: Tim Fuller/USA TODAY Sports

For the Vikings, this will be a tough decision in some ways. Minnesota has 2020 free agency signing Michael Pierce and 2021 free agency signing Dalvin Tomlinson as the starting defensive tackles when both of whom are healthy.

However, Watts has earned a spot in the starting lineup at this point. He looked good in run defense against the Packers. Watts has a PFF overall grade of 67.5, which is better than Pierce’s grade, but worse than Tomlinson’s.

If the Vikings want more pressure-getting players on the interior of the defensive line, the team should play Watts and Tomlinson. Watts seems good enough in run defense and adds more in the passing game than Pierce does. When Pierce returns, he should be an important player on the interior of the defensive line. But should he start? Not if Watts keeps thriving.

Play Camryn Bynum more

Photo: AP Photo/Julio Cortez

Bynum played a lot when the Vikings placed Harrison Smith on the COVID-19/Reserve list. Smith missed two games while on the list, but he was healthy for Week 11. That meant Bynum played just six defensive snaps against the Packers. I think Bynum should play more than that, based on how well he did in the Ravens and Chargers games — he had an interception and sack during that two-game span. The Vikings like to give Smith a lot of reps and that makes sense: he’s a stellar safety. But Bynum should rotate in more with fellow safety Xavier Woods at this point.

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