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Bleacher Report – Vikings

New safety George Iloka is the piece the Vikings’ defense needed

By Matthew Coller

One of the reasons Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer has thrived in the NFL into his 60s is his ability to adapt.

While his defense was No. 1 in points and yards last season, there are still tweaks that can be made to remain at the top. By adding veteran safety George Iloka on Wednesday, Zimmer helped his cause at becoming a deeper and more versatile defense.

“Most of these guys, we have some big guys in there, so we can use them in different ways, even on the goal line because we’re using bigger guys down there,” Zimmer said. “Honestly we’re just trying to add good football players and it will all sort out at the end.”

Iloka has been a reliable player for the Cincinnati Bengals, starting 76 games since being drafted in 2012. An article detailing his skills by Pro Football Focus: noted, “he’s surrendered fewer touchdowns (seven) into his coverage than he has interceptions (nine), and passers earned only a 68.4 rating throwing at him a season ago” while playing around 60 percent of his snaps at deep safety.

“I’m comfortable with whatever they ask me to do,” Iloka said. “I feel I’m very knowledgable, I’m very versatile, however they plan to use me, I just want to play well for them.”

Iloka is highly unlikely to start over Andrew Sendejo, who is coming off a solid 2017 season, but his presence give the Vikings an opportunity to offer looks they have not given opponents during the Zimmer era.

One of those options is to move All-Pro Harrison Smith into a linebacker spot during certain situations and use Iloka and Sendejo as the two safeties. With a reliable over-the-top safety, Smith could be used to thwart opponents usage of fullbacks or extra tight ends rather than sticking with a traditional 4-3 package.

Smith has proven to be exceptionally good at shifting spots when called upon. Per PFF, he played 577 snaps as a safety, 277 snaps at linebacker, 153 at slot corner, 112 off the edge and 34 as an outside corner.

“I think it will help some of the other packages we have,” Zimmer said.

Iloka said he understands the reality of his situation, but wanted to land in a spot that would give him an opportunity to contribute.

“My priority was to go into a situation with a winning team, a place that had a plan for me or just a place that I feel like I could help the team out in any type of way,” Iloka said.

While Anthony Harris proved last season to be a viable backup option, signing Iloka gives the Vikings a player who can slide in for an extended period of time if needed. Smith has largely been healthy over his career, but missed seven games between 2015 and 2016 and Sendejo has not played a 16-game season since becoming a full-time starter in 2015.

“My expectation is to come in, compete, help this team out in any way I can,” Iloka said. “Be a veteran presence, help the young guys as soon as I pick up the playbook, help them out as much as I can. Add depth. Be accountable and be someone players can look to be and be like, ‘that’s how you want to play.’”

Iloka said he expects to see his first action as a Viking when they face off with the Seattle Seahawks at US Bank Stadium on Friday night.

The post New safety George Iloka is the piece the Vikings’ defense needed appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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