The Minnesota Vikings fired on Washington's defensive lineman last year. But after he has gained height, he may have a chance to make a good impression at the camp.
While the Minnesota Vikings were preparing for the training camp a year ago, many questions arose before the camp.
Many wanted to see what the new attack on the ground would look like and, on the defense side, there was some question as to whether the Vikings could continue their historic effort from 2017 onwards.
If these questions have undoubtedly had an impact on the 2018 season, the question asked that could have the biggest impact this year may have been that of a player who did not even fit.
Hercules Mata'afa tore his ACL before even having a representative for the Vikings in 2018. But Mata'afa put himself in a position to impact the defense line in August.
Prior to his injury last year, many wondered where the product of Washington State would even play in the NFL. At a stated weight of 254 pounds, he was too small to continue playing on the defensive line, but too slow (4.76 times in the 40-yard dash) to be moved to the linebacker.
As the Vikings wondered what to do with Mike Zimmer's new toy, the young defensive lineman would rip his ACL in minicamp and miss the 2018 season.
This injury seems to be a blessing for Mata'afa a year later.
Minnesota giving him the opportunity to stay on the list, he was lucky enough to engage in a long-term program and with the Vikings needing help on the home defense line he got down to work for change his body for a life in the trenches by adding more strength and weight.
As Mata'afa enters the training camp this year, he recently posted on his Instagram account that he was touching 50 kg (280 pounds). After a strong mini-camp performance, Zimmer saw the flashes of another star student at Geno Atkins.
"We were in OTAs and one of the quarterbacks said to me," Do you think he can do that when the pads come on? I said, "I do not know. We'll see, "and he did it.
It's a bit, you know, I'm not saying he's Geno, but he's very active in these OTAs. Now the question is, "Can he continue to do that when we put the pads?"
If Mata'afa can continue to play indoors, he participates in an open competition behind Linval Joseph.
The Vikings hope Shamar Stephen, Armon Watts, Jaleel Johnson or Jalyn Holmes will be able to take Joseph's place. But Mata'afa has the speed and the skills of hustling that Minnesota has not yet in its composition with the departure of Sheldon Richardson.
The newly-vaunted defensive lineman has the necessary skills, having collected 10.5 sacks in his last season in Washington. If he can translate this ability into his new framework, an organization that has a lot of success in finding non-falsified gems might have another one to put on their resume.