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Training Camp Talkers: 'Big Dalvin' & Bigger Mike Combo Key for Vikings Run Defense

The shouts came from the asphalt path between the practice fields and a row of cameras focused on Dalvin Tomlinson Thursday afternoon.

Another focal point of the Minnesota Vikings — Dalvin Cook — was excited to see the 319-pounder conduct his first podium session with his new team.

The team's O.D. (original Dalvin, who celebrated his graduation from Florida State Friday) elaborated that he is now "Little Dalvin, and that's Big Dalvin."

The moniker might minimize Cook, but it's pretty spot-on for Tomlinson. Until he's standing next to Michael Pierce, who is even bigger (listed at 340 pounds).

That's 659 pounds of defensive tackles that are projected to anchor the line of scrimmage.

"It's always good to have big guys in the middle, stop the run and things like that," said Tomlinson, who joined Minnesota during free agency after beginning his career with the New York Giants. "I'm sure all the linebackers are happy about it, too, taking up the double teams."

Count in middle linebacker Eric Kendricks as one of the many people excited about the additions.

"I got some meaty boys in front of me, as everybody knows," Kendricks said earlier this week. "They're excited to play. I'm excited to play behind them and we'll make things correct this year."

Assistant Head Coach/Co-Defensive Coordinator/DL Coach Andre Patterson added of Tomlinson and Pierce: "They're two big dudes that are hard to move off the line of scrimmage. Eric Kendricks and Anthony Barr, it makes their life a lot easier. It's going to take two people to move those guys."

Pierce was added in 2020 but opted out of last season because of COVID-19 concerns. He didn't make it to Minnesota until he was fully vaccinated earlier this year. Pierce opened camp rehabbing a calf injury while he was training.

"I was doing a little bit too much of D-end stuff, change of direction and all of those little things," Pierce said. "We're going to peel back on that next summer, but yeah, I'm feeling pretty good.

"It's doing well. I actually injured it three weeks before [reporters] found out, so it's doing a lot better, is a lot further along than what Coach and them expected," Pierce said. "When I came back from Bama and started getting treatments, they were pretty shocked, so that's a good thing. Shout-out to my team at Bama. I should be pretty healthy soon."

Tomlinson has done some work at 3-technique and at nose, and Patterson likes the potential versatility, particularly given the unit was able to add Sheldon Richardson in June.

"[Tomlinson and Pierce] can play nose, they both can play 3-technique, so it doesn't make a difference if you have to [move them around]," Patterson said. "It helps us out a lot."

Pierce was able to connect with former Vikings Pro Bowl nose tackle Linval Joseph this offseason.

"It was awesome. He gave me his blessing, so that was big for me," Pierce said. "I made a [social media] post about him when I signed here. I literally watched a lot of his film and learned a lot from him about how to play the position of nose guard and how it's mastered, so he and Damon Harrison were guys I looked up to, studied their games before I met them. [Linval] is a class act, a great dude and works really hard. It was fun. I'm going to work out with him again next year."

Quote of the Day

"It helps you because now you're able to send a Harrison Smith, an Anthony Barr, an Eric Kendricks, and the offense has to find a way to account for a different guy. They're always going to look at those big pretty defensive ends on the outside and go, 'We've gotta block those guys.' Especially the ones I try to get. I like the ones that look pretty. They're gonna account for that guy. All of a sudden that guy drops into coverage and somebody else comes and protection's going to that guy, we've got a chance to get a guy on the running back or get a guy free."

— Patterson on the benefit of having a defensive end who can drop into coverage to create a blitz from another position player

2 More Points

Here are two other takeaways from Friday's media session.

1. Golden eye on the Olympics

Once camp opens, it's pretty much football all-day, every day, but Vikings receiver Adam Thielen was able to keep an eye on the Olympics and posted his happiness for fellow Minnesota native Sunisa Lee winning the gold medal in the all-around women's gymnastics.

"Us Minnesotans are proud of Minnesota, right? And proud of the people that are from here and have success, whether it be in sports or anything, really. I'm proud," Thielen said. "I tweeted it out, excited about it. It's pretty cool how many great athletes and competitors come from this great state and go and do big things. I always like to promote them."

Asked which Olympic sport he'd like to compete in, Thielen replied, "Have you seen the speed walking?"

"I'm a heck of a speed walker. I was practicing in the building on the way [to the press conference]," Thielen said.

2. Smith good with summer school

Tight end Irv Smith, Jr., will be well on the way to ending his third NFL training camp by the time he turns 23 on Aug. 9.

He's expected to take an increased role in Minnesota's offense this year after the Vikings bid farewell to Kyle Rudolph this spring.

Between mandatory minicamp ending in June and Smith reporting to camp, he worked in a "summer school" session by attending "Tight End U," a gathering of elite players at the position, including several who have been major pass-catching targets for several years.

"I learned a lot. It was cool being around that group of guys, a lot of top talent at the position in the entire league," Smith said. "Just getting with those guys, [Travis] Kelce, [George] Kittle and Greg Olsen. They did a great job putting the whole event together. And they've already sent out a text talking about we're already getting together next year. I'm excited to keep building on that."