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Why Zimmer Looks for DEs with Long Arms

Posted Feb 29, 2016

There are plenty of factors that get measured at the NFL Scouting Combine.

Yet there’s one assessment that Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer seems to favor.

Matt Vensel of the Star Tribune delved into why Zimmer likes defensive ends who have long arms.

The list of draftees include Pro Bowler DeMarcus Ware (in 2005 when Zimmer was defensive coordinator) in Dallas and Minnesota’s pick of Danielle Hunter last year out of LSU. Ware has 34-inch arms, and the 6-foot-5 Hunter has even longer arms, measured at 34 ¼ inches.

At first, Zimmer had some good-natured fun with the question. 

“A good example would be,” he answered as he looked down at me from the podium, “If I could reach you right now and tackle you, that would be a pretty good advantage, right? As opposed to trying to reach this far.”

Zimmer then provided Vensel with a deeper explanation.

“Number one is reach, as far as getting off a block and getting to a guy,” said Zimmer, now in his third year as Vikings coach. “Number two is guys that are 10 feet high in the air with their hands, being able to get in the quarterback’s throwing lane, tipped balls and things like that. I think length gives you an advantage that can be important for your defensive football team.”

The Vikings have the 23rd pick in the first round in the 2016 NFL Draft, which begins April 28 in Chicago.

Vikings could keep low profile in draft

Speaking of the draft, Michael Rand of the Star Tribune expects the Vikings to be somewhat quiet this year.

Rand said that would different from previous years.

Whether it was taking running back Adrian Peterson seventh overall in 2007, acquiring Jared Allen in 2008 for a handful of picks, grabbing left tackle Matt Kalil with the fourth pick in 2012 before trading up to get safety Harrison Smith, or moving back into the first round to select quarterback Teddy Bridgewater in 2014, there’s been no shortage of excitement for the Vikings in recent drafts.

Every year in recent memory has involved a pretty hefty amount of intrigue and anticipation — either in the months leading up to the draft, the draft itself or both — when it comes to the Vikings.

This year? It feels like it could be the most low-key Vikings draft in a long time. Part of that is their draft position (No. 23) and the real possibility they could (which they should) take an offensive lineman with that pick in the first round. But part of it is that the drafts of the past decade have been pretty spectacular by comparison.

We’ll have to wait and see if Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman provides more fireworks in two months. 

That’s not to say it won’t continue in 2016, but with a low pick and a real need on the offensive line, it could be a boring, predictable, safe draft.

There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s just not like the Vikings.

Spielman talks Wallace at combine

Andrew Krammer of 1500ESPN.com tackled a few Vikings-related issues from the combine over the weekend.

One of the topics Krammer covered was wide receiver Mike Wallace, a player whom Spielman talked about while in Indianapolis.

What a difference a year made for receiver Mike Wallace.

While Wallace and the Vikings were disappointed he didn’t contribute more in 2015, the team’s company line has been bullish on bringing him back. He’s under contract for the final two years of a bloated free agency deal signed in Miami, where the Dolphins essentially gave him away in a trade and didn’t mince words a year ago. Despite carrying some baggage into Minnesota, Wallace impressed coaches and teammates with his professionalism last season.

“What Mike Wallace brought into our locker room, and his buy-in and his sacrifice from a standpoint of stats and what was best for the team,” Spielman said. “He was a true professional and everything he was asked to do, he did it to his best. And his leadership also was very key to the success that we had on the field.”

Wallace had 39 catches for 473 yards and two touchdowns in 2015.