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Hunter, Vikings on the Hunt for More Sacks

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — The Vikings defense is tied for eighth in the NFL with 21 sacks, a strong stat for one of the league's top units.

But after notching 19 total sacks in its first five games, Minnesota's sack total has fizzled out of late, with just 2.0 sacks over the past three weeks.

Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer said Thursday morning that teams are using quick passes to eliminate the threat of a sack. Even so, Zimmer wants his defense to crank up the intensity getting after the quarterback.

"I think we've been not as reckless as we had been early," Zimmer said. "We're kind of feeling our way a little bit in the pass rush.

"We're getting a lot of chips and a lot of extra protection, we're getting a lot of quick things out so guys are kind of thinking a little bit too much," he added. "We're trying to clear that up."

Zimmer later noted that he wants his defense to be "more aggressive," not necessarily reckless.

And if teams do use quick passes, Zimmer said, the Vikings have to still find a way to be productive.

"You have to beat somebody quick, usually that's part of it," Zimmer said. "And then part of it is we have to get tighter in coverage."

The Vikings might see more of the same Sunday in Washington as quarterback Kirk Cousins is known to have a quick release.

"It's been very efficient for them throughout the course of the year," Vikings Defensive Coordinator George Edwards said of Washington's quick passes. "So, I would look for them to continue to build on that and get the ball out of his hands.

"He hasn't been sacked very much. He's only been sacked 11 times," he added. "So, that's a formula that's been working for them throughout. I would expect to see the same thing."

Vikings second-year defensive end Danielle Hunter has followed the tune of the Vikings as of late. After getting 4.0 sacks in the opening five games, the former third-round pick hasn't gotten any in each of the past three games. 

Like Zimmer, Hunter said quick passes have played a role in that.

"There are some days I could have done better," Hunter said. "But that's all part of the job.

"Third down, we've seen more screens," he added. "We've got to counteract that."

Hunter had 6.0 sacks last season as a rookie when he was the youngest defensive player in the NFL.

Zimmer said he's seen plenty of good things from the 22-year-old, who has been close to upping his sack total of late. Hunter also created pressure on Matthew Stafford last week before the Lions quarterback threw an interception that was nabbed by Chad Greenway.

"I think he had the guy beat twice last week (against the Lions) and then the ball came out early," Zimmer said. "He's doing good. There's still things he's working on, but I just keep trying to get him to cut it loose a little bit more."

Treadwell cherishes first NFL catch

Late in the first quarter Sunday against Detroit, Vikings rookie wide receiver Laquon Treadwell raced about 12 yards upfield before breaking inside right as he hauled in a strike from quarterback Sam Bardford.

The 15-yard reception on third-and-10 moved the chains on a scoring drive that saw Minnesota tied the game at 3.

But the catch was a highlight moment for Treadwell as it was the 2015 first-round pick's first NFL catch

"It felt great," Treadwell said. "Going out there competing with my teammates and making plays … I feel like that's a big confidence builder right there."

Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer said he's been encouraged my Treadwell's progress over the past few weeks.

"I think he's just more comfortable, for one thing," Zimmer said. "And he's doing a good job running routes, catching the ball, showing good quickness, working on the press."

"I think with young guys, especially having more confidence (helps)," he added. "I'm sure (this season) hasn't gone the way he wanted initially, but I thought it was good he went in there and caught that third-down catch last week."

Although Treadwell has just the one reception this season, he said he's going to stick to his plan and stay motivated going forward.

"You have to be patient," Treadwell said. "Everything takes time, and nothing great comes overnight.

"That's been my perspective all my life," he added.

Zimmer praises Ellison's do-it-all mentality

Vikings tight end Rhett Ellison produced a highlight-worthy play Sunday as he perfectly executed a sweep, taking a handoff from Sam Bradford to score on a 1-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter against Detroit.

"They felt like it would work," Zimmer said of offensive assistants. "It looked good in practice, and we ran it."

Although that play had U.S. Bank Stadium buzzing, Zimmer said there are plenty of hidden things that the former Southern Cal standout does well on a weekly basis.

"He's smart, he's tough, he blocks, he does a lot of dirty work," Zimmer said. "But also, when he gets the ball he can do some things with it.

"He's very, very reliable," Zimmer added. "He's always going to show up on Sunday, every practice he shows up, he does his job, he's quiet, but it means a lot to him."

Besides his single carry, Ellison has three catches for 24 yards this season.

View images from the Vikings Thursday, November 10 practice at Winter Park.

Floyd continues mending

Vikings defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd has been out since suffering a knee injury in Week 1. Floyd dealt with knee issues this offseason and recently left Winter Part for a few days of off-site treatment, Zimmer said.

Floyd, however, has not returned to practice yet, and Zimmer said "I have no idea" when asked about a timetable.

The Vikings have rotated Linval Joseph, Shamar Stephen and Tom Johnson on the interior of the defensive line and also kicked in Brian Robison from defensive end in a sub package.

Injury reports

For the Vikings: In addition to Floyd, Linval Joseph (shoulder), Marcus Sherels (ankle) and Captain Munnerlyn did not participate. Zac Kerin (hand) was limited for a second straight day, and Laquon Treadwell (hamstring) was limited on Thursday. Ronnie Hillman (heel), Jerick McKinnon (ankle), Alex Boone (concussion), Eric Kendricks (concussion), Anthony Barr (ankle), Andrew Sendejo (ankle) and Audie Cole (hand) fully participated.

For the Redskins: WR DeSean Jackson (shoulder) did not participate. S Will Blackmon (thumb) and T Morgan Moses (ankle) were limited. S Duke Ihenacho (concussion) and G Brandon Scherff (shoulder) fully participated. DE Chris Baker (toe) was added on Thursday's report but fully participated.

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