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Lunchbreak: 'Big Bertha' Helping Datone Jones' Transition with Vikings

Datone Jones entered free agency having played primarily outside linebacker with the Packers.

When he visited with the Vikings, defensive line coach Andre Patterson told him that he was built more naturally to be a defensive tackle at the 3-technique position.

Ben Goessling of the *Star Tribune *spoke with Jones this week about his willingness to relocate – both his home and his position on the football field. Goessling wrote that Jones liked Patterson's idea "enough to take a chance on it."

"I could just tell [how good they were,] based on watching their group and how they worked," Jones told Goessling. "What really sold me was the leader of the group, Coach 'Dre. That's one thing he preaches from start to finish: You can beat guys off pure talent, but once you get your fundamentals correct, it mixes with that pure talent to [help you] become a great player."

Patterson told Goessling that Tom Johnson is ahead of Jones on the Vikings depth chart but that "we'll need four of them" in a rotation on the interior line, so that doesn't rule Jones out of the running.

The defensive line coach has been using "Big Bertha" to help further train Jones after he bulked up over the offseason. Goessling wrote:

The Big Bertha is a sled Patterson invented, to deliver a sharp reminder of how the Vikings defensive line coach wants his players to move. It's only been used in the places Patterson has worked. Players hit the front arm of the sled, causing it to swivel, and if they don't accelerate quickly enough, the back arm whips around like a door about to shut.

Patterson explained why the sled is important for Jones' development:

"If you're an offensive lineman, and I clear you with the front part of my body, I've got to get the back half of my body through quick, because the offensive lineman is going to react," Patterson told Goessling. "He has the ability to get the front half cleared quick, but his back half doesn't come through as fast.

"That's the thing we've been working on real hard, since Day 1, and in the [practice] on Saturday night, you saw him back there [in the backfield]," Patterson added. "So those things are starting to come."

Offensive aspects to watch in Vikings 1st preseason game

Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer didn't disclose in his final media session which first-team players will see time on the field Thursday night at Buffalo. He did say, however, that "when the first group goes out maybe we'll keep some other guys in and maybe look at some different combinations of things."

Matthew Coller of 1500ESPN.com wrote Tuesday which combinations fans could keep their eyes on in Minnesota's first preseason matchup of 2017. He wrote:

The most obvious 'different combinations' that the Vikings could use are on the interior offensive line. During practice, centers Nick Easton and Pat Elflein have occasionally taken snaps at guard. We could see both on the field at the same time against the Bills.

Coller continued that receiver Jarius Wright could get extra playing time since Laquon Treadwell hasn't practiced since July 31 due to injury. The other two areas Coller opined as worth watching were running back and backup quarterback.

Jerick McKinnon and Dalvin Cook have lined up at receiver at different times during camp. Will they show opponents that using them in receiver roles is possible? Will they share the field at any point? And how often will we see fullback CJ Ham in the mix?

Once the second team and third teams do take the field, the backup quarterback performances will be worth watching. Zimmer said Tuesday that neither Case Keenum or Taylor Heinicke has the lead in the competition for QB2.

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Jarius Wright building chemistry with Bradford

Earlier this week, Vikings.com's Craig Peters wrote about Wright's skillset that Sam Bradford appreciates working with.

Chris Tomasson of the *Pioneer Press *also caught up with Wright to further discuss the way he's built a stronger rapport with Bradford after having limited reps with him in 2016. Tomasson wrote:

Wright and Bradford seem to be making up for lost time. Bradford hit Wright on some nice balls in training camp at Minnesota State, Mankato, including a long one down the right side and one down the left side in Saturday's night practice.

"I think me and Sam are starting to become, I don't want to say one, but we're starting to think alike,'' Wright told Tomasson. "We're starting to be on the same page. We're starting to talk about more routes together and things like that.''

Wright later said:

"I'm not going to say he didn't know me well because he throws to me some in practice, but not getting the chance to go with (the first team) a lot, I think it does mess up timing.''

The last time the Vikings played a game, Wright got in some work with Bradford. In the 2016 finale against Chicago, with Minnesota out of the playoff race, Wright was inserted and caught a season-high five passes for 24 yards and his only touchdown of the season.

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