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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Vikings will have tough decisions on defensive line

By Matthew Coller

The Minnesota Vikings already had one of the NFL’s best defensive lines, then they added three more talented young players.

Over the first two preseason games, rookies Tashawn Bower, Jaleel Johnson and Ifeadi Odenigbo have dominated opponents’ second teams.

Bower, an undrafted free agent from LSU, had sacks in both games and consistently put pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Johnson had his breakout game against Seattle, blowing up two plays in the backfield and picking up five total tackles and Odenigbo led the team in tackles and grabbed a sack against the Seahawks.

All three are deserving of a roster spot. But can the Vikings find the room?

Star pass rushers Everson Griffen and Danielle Hunter are set in stone at defensive end, as is veteran Brian Robison. Last year’s seventh-round pick Stephen Weatherly, who has played well during the preseason and is a solid special teamer, also has a great chance of making the team.

If the Vikings keep Bower and Odenigbo, that would give them six defensive ends. When they opened up the 2016 season, the Vikings only had four.

Both players would be easy choices for the practice squad – that’s if they made it through waivers. Teams don’t often grab cut players who are pegged for the practice squad because they have to find room on their own 53 for that player, but Bower and Odenigbo have been exceptional.

At defensive tackle, Linval Joseph, Tom Johnson and Datone Jones are set. Assuming the Vikings only keep four DTs (as they did in ’16), Jaleel Johnson may have taken the lead for the lone opening against Seattle.

Jaleel is battling with more experienced players Shamar Stephen and Will Sutton.

When Sharrif Floyd went down with a knee injury in Week 1 last season, Stephen took over a big chunk of his duties and played 53.1% of snaps. But he ranked 97th of 125 defensive tackles by Pro Football Focus’s player grades. Stephen, who has size and strength, wasn’t as effective stopping the run as the Vikings had hoped.

Sutton, a former Chicago Bear, was injured for the majority of 2016 and saw just 174 total snaps. Experience would give Sutton an edge, but he hasn’t put together exceptional performances in his first two preseason games.

Normally the battle over the fourth DT slot might not be a major decision, but for the Vikings, it will take all four players to replace Floyd.

Tom Johnson is an exceptional pass rusher, but isn’t as strong against the run. Datone Jones played linebacker last year for Green Bay and it’s unclear how he’ll adapt on the inside.

The Vikings will not only have to decide which players to keep, but how to use Bower, Odenigbo and Johnson if they are retained. Put that under the “good problem to have” category.

The post Vikings will have tough decisions on defensive line appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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