*EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — *Vikings rookie defensive linemen and linebackers have been active in the team’s first two preseason games.
Defensive ends Tashawn Bower and Ifeadi Odenigbo and defensive tackle Jaleel Johnson have each made plays behind the line of scrimmage.
First-year linebackers Elijah Lee and Eric Wilson have recovered fumbles, and Ben Gedeon leads the team with 10 tackles and six solo stops (according to press box stats).
“So far so good,” Bower said of the Vikings rookie class. “We’re all coming along and take coaching and all are down with the plays. We all hustle to the ball and we have great effort.”
Bower has recorded a sack in each game, and he did so on Friday with the Vikings defense facing a difficult situation.
The undrafted rookie out of LSU dropped Trevone Boykin for a loss of 10 after Seattle began its first possession of the second half at the Minnesota 18-yard line. Odenigbo followed with another sack two plays later, forcing the Seahawks to settle for a field goal.
After being required to pull up and avoid contact against Vikings quarterbacks during the offseason program and training camp, Bower said defenders have enjoyed the opportunity to finish plays.
“It’s good,” Bower said. “It’s something you don’t get to do often, but once you have the opportunity, you better make it.”
Bower has six tackles, 2.0 sacks, two tackles for loss and three quarterback hurries. Odenigbo has eight tackles, one sack, one tackle for loss and two quarterback hurries.
A switch by coaches of Johnson to the 3-technique defensive tackle spot allowed him to show a “bulldog mentality” against Seattle, totaling five tackles, including a pair for losses. He also had a sack at Buffalo.
“These young defensive lineman are doing a good job,” Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer said Sunday. “I thought Jaleel Johnson played well, Bower had another good day. Ifeadi, ‘Big O’ – that’s what we call him, I thought he did some good things too. So, those three guys, they’ve kind of stepped up.”
Wilson has been credited with eight tackles so far and defended two passes against the Bills, and Lee has five tackles.
Bower has been able to learn from third-year pro Danielle Hunter, a former Tigers teammate. Hunter hosted Bower on his official visit to LSU and helped Minnesota “recruit”* *Bower to sign with the Vikings after the draft.
Similar to Hunter’s approach when he arrived in Minnesota as a third-round pick, Bower has paid attention to all of the little details and said he wants to continue to improve against the run.
As for the success on pass plays, Bower credited coaching and teamwork, along with a burst of power.
“I’m just using my combination of speed and power and all of the techniques that coach teaches,” Bower said. “It takes all four guys to get a sack, so it’s not just me helping out.”