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Dean Lowry's Veteran Presence Helping Vikings Defensive Line Rotation

EAGAN, Minn. — Vikings Defensive Coordinator Brian Floreswants to treat his front defenders like a hockey line.

"There's always a rotation with those big guys, normally. You want that second wave of guys just so they don't tire out over the course of a drive," Flores said Saturday at Twin Cities Orthopedic Performance Center. "There's going to be some form of rotation. Is it going to be, 'Hey, four in, four out'? It could be. Is it gonna be 'one for one' in a situation or 'two for two' in a situation – third down, second-and-long? It could be. Sometimes guys just get gassed – it could be that."

In Saturday's session, the Vikings opened team drills with the combination of Jonathan Bullard, Harrison Phillips and Dean Lowry across the front. Bullard (seven games) and Phillips (17) started for Minnesota last year.

Lowry joined the Vikings this offseason after playing the past six seasons for the Packers, providing a veteran presence.

"You see that experience. You could see that on tape," Flores said of Lowry. "He knows how to play blocks, he understands schematically what the offense is trying to do to him. He knows when he's in, when they have an advantage just from a blocking-scheme standpoint. He knows when he has an advantage from a blocking-scheme standpoint. Oftentimes, in the trenches, it's about that understanding. And Dean's got a good feel for it.

"He knows if he's in this position, he can't get reached; he knows if he's in this position, they've got an angle on him," Flores added. "And he does a good job of playing with good technique, fundamentals, releasing off blocks. He's quiet. He leads by example. But it's important to him. We're happy to have him, and he's done a good job."

Lowry won consecutive reps versus the second-team interior offensive line during an inside-run drill at Saturday's practice. His heavy hands and long arms put him in position to fill a running lane that otherwise looked wide open. After four physical plays, Lowry rotated out.

"There isn't any one big name star on our [interior] D-line, but there a lot of guys that are competitive and just come to work every day," Lowry said. "Harrison has had a great camp so far. And then Bullard is also experienced, too. And [Khyiris] Tonga has been really playing at a high level. So, I would say it's a very deep group, and we're all hungry to go out there and compete and play at a high level."

The group will have to deal with the loss of James Lynch, whose knee injury was called "a tough loss" by Flores during his media session.

Last season, Lowry started 12 of 15 games for Green Bay and totaled 43 tackles, one-half sack, and five quarterback hits. He recorded a career-high 5.0 sacks during the 2021 season.

Lowry said staying in the division is an advantage for him. He spent the offseason watching the same division opponents he's been playing against his entire career.

"The past couple of years, we've all played the same teams. So breaking down film, playing similar schedules helps because it's just good to speak the same language and be familiar with who we're going against," Lowry said. "And then also being familiar with this place and what it's all about."

He's also enjoyed adjusting to Flores. Whether it's the run game, pass defense, edge responsibilities, or fundamentals, Flores pays attention to it all. Flores demands the best from his defenders.

Lowry wouldn't want it any other way.

"Coach Flores, he demands perfection," he said. "With our defense, we watched every single run with Coach Flores, and he goes through each guy and the expectation for each guy and each play. Just the attention to detail, physical and every day, there are high expectations."