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Jones & Sutton Want to Add to D-Line Rotation's Bite

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. —The Vikings defensive tackles often jaw during practice, expressing their pride in setting the tone for the Vikings stout defense.

They don't care about individual statistics or accolades, and as the rotation of a handful of players just want their collective impact to be felt by opponents.

It's a mindset that could form a relentless attack that leaves opposing offenses grasping for help.

"With a high-energy defensive line like ours, I think keeping fresh bodies is probably going to be our main focus," said Vikings defensive tackle Datone Jones, who signed with Minnesota as a free agent this offseason. "(We want) multiple guys getting after the quarterback nonstop and just having that 'great white shark mentality.'

"There's blood in the water, and we're swarming the quarterback," Jones said.

The group is led by Linval Joseph, who made his first Pro Bowl in 2016. He finished third on the team with 100 total tackles (according to the coaches' tally), tied his career high with 4.0 sacks and added seven tackles for loss and three forced fumbles.

The Vikings have plenty of options along the line next to Joseph.

Shamar Stephen started all 16 games last season and is an adept run defender. Tom Johnson excels in pass-rush situations, and Danielle Hunter continues to rehab from a knee injury.

The Vikings added Jaleel Johnson in the draft by taking the former University of Iowa standout in the fourth round.

Besides Jones, Will Sutton is another new addition. Sutton signed with Minnesota last month after spending the first three seasons of his career in Chicago.

Joseph said earlier this spring that he doesn't mind whoever lines up next to him on the interior of the defensive line.

"It's not difficult at all," Joseph said. "At the end of the day, each guy is going to elevate (us) and help us win games.

"We need each and every guy to give their best, and I think they can really help us," Joseph added.

After spending the past few years with NFC North rivals, Jones and Sutton are excited to be in a new home. 

"At the end of the day, we're all trying to make a spot on this team. But at the same time, we're all trying to make us better," Sutton said. "When you have healthy competition, it makes you want to go out there and compete and study and do the right thing every time.

"It starts up front. The motto in our room is 'It's hard to be great.' That gives us that drive to come out here and get better every day," Sutton added. "It always starts with the D-line, we set the tone for the team. If we play a team that is going to pass all day, and we're getting sacks, that makes it easier on the defense."

Both players are adapting to new style of defense in Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer's 4-3 system.

Sutton was the nose tackle in a 3-4 defensive scheme with the Bears. Jones played a variety of positions, including outside linebacker, in Green Bay. 

"Just being back in my natural position … it takes time to get back in the three-point stance and do all the movements and turn your hips and get to the quarterback," Jones said during Organized Team Activity practices. "I started off slow, but now I'm working fast.

"We have a great group, and we're pushing each other day-in and day-out," Jones added. "We're feeding off each other's energy. We all do different things that make us all unique."

Sutton said he and Jones often talk about the excitement for their first season in Purple.

And they chat about the success they envision for the defensive tackle group, even if it's going to be a collective effort.

"They hunt on defense," Sutton said of his new team. "They attack and get after it and run to the ball.

"They don't make it easy for the offense," Sutton added. "It's just a different mentality out here."

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