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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Vikings ability to develop players showing with injuries abound

By Matthew Coller

The Minnesota Vikings came into Sunday’s game against the New York Jets missing two Pro Bowl defensive linemen, a starting safety, a star running back, a rookie depth corner and a $55 million left tackle. The Vikings also saw their starting linebacker and Pro Bowl cornerback go down during the game. And they won by 20 points.

One by one, the young replacements stepped up. Former seventh-round pick Stephen Weatherly and 2017 fourth-rounder Jaleel Johnson started on the defensive line, which held the Jets to 3.0 yards per carry. Johnson also had a half sack. Plus rookie Jalyn Holmes picked up a sack.

In the secondary, Jayron Kearse picked up a sack and played a number of snaps in the “big nickel” package, which was used often by the Vikings as they held Sam Darnold to 17-for-42 passing with three interceptions — one of which came from undrafted rookie Holton Hill.

While Latavius Murray got the majority of snaps in the backfield, undrafted rookie Roc Thomas busted a 23-yard run and fellow undrafted rookie Mike Boone picked up a 9-yard gain.

Rookie Brian O’Neill did not allow a sack and handled the Jets’ pass rush well as the starting right tackle.

And undrafted rookie Brandon Zylstra added a 23-yard catch for good measure,

“That’s why it’s so important that we as coaches continue to push these young guys because they’re going to get in the ball game at some time,” Zimmer said. “A guy like Eric Wilson, for instance, we’ve been playing him in some packages and it’s just good for him to get in the game. Holton Hill got in today… These guys are going to have to play.”

Minnesota’s victory put on display the team’s efforts to find players with high ceilings in the late rounds of the draft or in the undrafted free agent pool and develop them.

Weatherly, for example, only had 11.5 sacks over his three college seasons, but has spent the past two years learning behind the likes of Brian Robison and Everson Griffen. Kearse was also a seventh-rounder who largely only played special teams until this year.

Investments in undrafted free agents like Eric Wilson and Hill are paying off. General manager Rick Spielman noted before last season the increased emphasis in spending on UDFAs.

The Vikings’ free agency decisions to add depth are also paying off. Veteran Tom Johnson, who was brought back after being let go by Seattle, recovered a fumble and stuffed a run for a six-yard loss and George Iloka was solid again starting in place of Andrew Sendejo.

While Zimmer said that injuries to Xavier Rhodes and Anthony Barr did not appear to be serious, the Vikings will likely need their depth players to continue to step up. Defensive tackle Linval Joseph was on the injury report with three different injuries, it’s unclear when Dalvin Cook will return from a hamstring injury and there is no timeline for Griffen’s return.

Next week the depth will truly be tested in the Vikings are without starters against the New Orleans Saints.

The post Vikings ability to develop players showing with injuries abound appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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