Holmes, Johnson Could Provide Extra Push for Vikings Defensive Line

A defensive end in college, Jalyn Holmes fully expected the speed of football to pick up a little bit after he was a fourth-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft.

But when Holmes moved inside to defensive tackle after arriving in Minnesota, it was almost like the game was in hyperdrive.

“It was a big adjustment. With the NFL, things naturally got faster anyway. But I feel like now it’s kind of slowing down a bit more,” Holmes said. “You learn something new every day that helps slow it down. You have to be a student of the game every day and pick the vets’ brains. … That has helped me out a lot.

“I’m still learning. I just feel like this year it’s kind of slowed down a little bit. There’s still that adjustment. … It’s different blocks and it’s a lot faster,” Holmes added. “But as every day goes by, you get a little bit better at it.”

Holmes is one of a handful of young defensive tackles looking to make an impact in the trenches for the Vikings, who have Pro Bowler Linval Joseph and veteran Shamar Stephen likely locked into the starting roles up front.

While Holmes in his second season, fellow defensive tackle Jaleel Johnson enters his third year with the Vikings. And Hercules Mata’afa has impressed coaches so far this spring after coming back strong from an ACL injury.

Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer said Tuesday that he likes what he’s seen from Johnson, who had 0.5 sacks while playing in all 16 games in 2018.

“Jaleel has really done a nice job this offseason. He’s worked extremely hard, he’s gotten bigger and stronger,” Zimmer said. “When you look at him coming in from the weight room and things like that, he’s really improved [a lot] in that way. I think he’s being more receptive to coaching.

“Sometimes Jaleel’s a little bit like a bull in a china closet,” Zimmer added. “So he just wants to go, go, go, and we have to get him to understand where his gap is, how he’s playing, where his hands should be and things like that, and I think he’s done a much better job this spring.”

The Vikings also have 2019 sixth-round pick Armon Watts on the roster, along with Curtis Cothran and Tito Odenigbo.

As Holmes continues with this week’s mandatory minicamp and training camp, he said he’ll continue to work on the finer details of his game with the hopes he can stand out from the crowd.

“Just getting stronger with my hands. Playing the guy in front of me instead of trying to do everything at one time,” Holmes said. “Just fundamentals of the 3-technique.”

“I feel like I have a home at 3-technique,” Holmes added. “Now I’m just trying to get better every day.”

If he can help out and contribute, Holmes could help make one of the strongest parts of the Vikings roster even better.

With Danielle Hunter, Everson Griffen and Stephen Weatherly ready to come off the edge, Holmes and the rest of Minnesota’s interior linemen could provide some push up the middle.

“It keeps that fresh rotation and keeps the offensive line [guessing],” Holmes said of the Vikings depth on the defensive line. “To be a part of that rotation and to help the team win, it’s a great feeling. You have to practice like you’re a starter because you’re going to get some reps.”

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