Minnesota's second preseason game featured some flash plays from young defenders.
Despite the ultimate 20-13 loss to the Seahawks, Vikings were able to get long looks at players on the second- and third-team defense Friday night. A number of new names stood out, including Tashawn Bower, Jaleel Johnson and Ifeadi Odenigbo, who led the Vikings in tackles.
After Russell Wilson played the entire first half for Seattle, Trevone Boykin started the third quarter and immediately felt the pressure from Minnesota's second-team defense. Boykin looked to capitalize on a fumbled kickoff return by Rodney Adams, but on his first snap from the Vikings 18-yard-line, he was sacked by Bower for a loss of 10 yards.
The takedown marked Bower's second sack in as many preseason games. He recorded four tackles, a tackle for loss and a quarterback hurry on Friday, according to press box stats.
KFAN analyst and former linebacker Ben Leber said he's been impressed by the way defensive line coach Andre Patterson appears to be developing the undrafted free agent in the same way he worked with Danielle Hunter, a former teammate of Bower's at LSU.
Leber told KFAN's Paul Allen during the simulcast of the game that Patterson has a way of building off the players' "God-given talents."
"I think for both [Bower and Hunter], it's strength, and it's their hand usage," Leber said. "So many guys in college just want to run around the blocks, and [Patterson is] saying, 'No. Don't do that. Use your strengths. Attack these guys. Once you engage, you're strong enough to create separation.'
"And once you do that, then he'll teach you the techniques on how to get off on some pass-rushing moves," Leber continued. "So these guys have really taken to that coaching. It's different; it's different than what they've learned, so it takes some time. But you look at Danielle Hunter, and if Bower can do the same sort of things, and take the coaching and develop, boy, he could be a heck of a player too."
After Bower's sack moved Boykin back to the 28, he threw an incomplete pass on second-and-20. On third down he once again met the fury of Minnesota's defense, this time in the form of Odenigbo. The rookie's first sack in the pros knocked Boykin back another six yards and effectively held Seattle to a field goal after starting the drive in the red zone.
Odenigbo recorded six total tackles (four solo), one tackle for loss and a pair of quarterback hurries. In the final five minutes of the game, he also forced an Alex Collins fumble. The ball was recovered by fellow rookie Eric Wilson to give Minnesota an opportunity at coming back from a 20-6 deficit.
Stephen Weatherly, a second-year defensive end who recorded three tackles and a quarterback hurry, said Vikings successes resulted from teamwork.
"The defensive ends did a good job pressuring the quarterback, but that wouldn't be possible unless our interior guys were collapsing the pocket," Weatherly said. "The defensive line as a group did really well versus the two mobile quarterbacks we [faced]."
Johnson was part of the interior defensive line that did some damage.
The fourth-round draft pick's five total tackles ranked second on the team, and he added two tackles for loss. Early in the fourth quarter, Johnson had back-to-back stops of Collins – the second for a loss of five yards – that helped Minnesota hold Seattle to three-and-out.
On the following drive, Johnson tackled Collins after just a 1-yard gain and a few plays later took down Mike Davis for a three-yard loss.
The young defenders were given a good test when Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer rotated in the second-team defense while Seattle's first-team offense remained on the field.
"That's our chance to show to Coach 'Dre, who constantly says over and over again, 'If you want to make this team, you need to perform like our starters,' " Weatherly said. "And when we get to go against other teams' starters, it's a direct comparison. Do I play the run the same way [Everson Griffen] does? Can I rush the passer the same way [Danielle] does versus the same level of competition?' So we like that, we accept that challenge, and we try to do our best against it."