EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — A pass rush presence is often credited for helping the secondary in terms of shortening lengths of plays or by helping create interceptions for players on the back end.
There's also a strong connection between the defensive line and linebackers that Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer mentioned earlier this month and defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd spoke about Wednesday with "Voice of the Vikings" Paul Allen on his 9 to Noon show on KFAN.
Floyd and the Vikings are in Phase 2 of the team's voluntary offseason workout program that will shift to Phase 3's organized team activity practices next week and culminate with a mandatory minicamp next month. He said he has personal goals going into his third pro season and goals for the unit in its second year under Zimmer, Defensive Coordinator George Edwards and defensive line coach Andre Patterson.
"I'll play a lot more snaps, I'll contribute a lot more to my team, and besides me, I think the whole unit will be together, will play as a unit a lot more often instead of showing flashes," said Floyd, who had a career-high 4.5 sacks in 2014 despite missing two games and playing through injuries.
"We can communicate a lot better. Once we communicate on the little things, as far as what's going on inside of a play, and also understanding where our linebackers are on certain plays, because depending where they are, it (affects) what type of blocks we get out in front of, so understanding the defense more. This will be a good year to learn football instead of trying to learn the playbook. We know that already."
Allen followed by asking what the defensive linemen can do to keep linebackers like Chad Greenway, Anthony Barr and 2015 second-round pick Eric Kendricks free to make plays.
"We've got to lock into our keys," Floyd answered. "If we play the technique that Coach Patterson is putting forth for us, them boys should be fine, and I think we already do a good job of keeping them up. We can do a better job this year of making that step forward and going from good to elite."
Zimmer said during a media session on the first day of rookie minicamp that Kendricks would begin his work at middle linebacker, but may one day shift to play weakside linebacker. Zimmer and Kendricks have both been asked if the 6-foot, 232-pound frame for UCLA's all-time leading tackler* *is large enough for the NFL, and both have expressed confidence that it's up to the challenge. They wouldn't, however, mind help from Vikings defensive linemen to steer clear of obstructions.
"I like big guys, but the thing about us defensively is that the way we play with our defensive line, some of the linebackers can be a little bit smaller because part of the job of the defensive line is to keep our linebackers free so that they can run and hit," Zimmer said. "I'm not concerned about his size."
Floyd said he wants to be an extension of Zimmer, whom he called a "feisty coach."
"He has an aggression about what he does and is passionate, and that's a guy you've got to love," Floyd said. "You've got to respect him, and I always feel that you move as your head coach moves, and that's his personality and what he brings to the table. That's who I need to be on the field."