Today and tomorrow, the Vikings and Jaguars will join for co-practices at Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center before facing off at U.S. Bank Stadium at noon (CT) Saturday for their second preseason game.
The two teams finished No. 1 and 2 in overall defense last season, and NFL.com's Adam Schein recently tabbed their units in the top two spots again. He placed the Vikings second on the list, saying it's "no surprise" that the team is well coached under Head Coach Mike Zimmer. Schein wrote:
And the unit possesses three bona fide stars: DE Everson Griffen, CB Xavier Rhodes and S Harrison Smith. Rhodes and Smith earned First-Team All-Pro honors last season, and Griffen was en route to such an honor (with 10 sacks in the first eight games) before a torn plantar fascia [slowed] his production down the back half of the season.
Griffen did make the All-Pro Second Team.
Schein added that Minnesota's defense is well stocked beyond that "Big Three."
DE Danielle Hunter is still just 23, but he already has 25.5 sacks to his name. (And a whole bunch of new money.) DT Sheldon Richardson can be a game wrecker — when motivated. And Linval Joseph gets completely lost in the shuffle, yet the highly consistent nose tackle has made the Pro Bowl in each of the last two seasons. Strong safety Andrew Sendejo has developed into a nice player, too.
Schein added that Jacksonville and Minnesota each have a defense that's "power loaded … from front to back."
Hill mentoring O'Neill on O-line
The Vikings offensive line has been somewhat in flux as the position group deals with injuries and looks to find the best starting five. Thus far, Rashod Hill has been starting at right tackle except for time he missed earlier in camp due to an illness.
Tim Yotter of Viking Update wrote about a friendship growing within the position group.
Hill is working to regain weight lost while sick, and second-round draft pick Brian O'Neill is also working to bulk up – striving for 6,000 calories a day – and compete at tackle. Yotter wrote:
Hill said he can lose as much as five pounds a practice, but O'Neill has been focusing on his food intake and weight-room routine to get his weight and strength near NFL offensive tackle standards.
The two tackles are forming a bond over football much more than just food. Hill, who worked his way into a starting role last year, has been mentoring O'Neill as they compete for the same job.
"Rashod helps me out a ton. That's something as a rookie coming in you can't be more thankful for, when a guy who plays your position is really willing to help teach you as a player and also as a person," O'Neill said. "He's been a mentor to me the last couple weeks, kind of what to expect off the field and how the thing rolls and just checking in on me and texting every couple nights, just like, 'Hey, how you doing, man? Keep your head up,' whatever it is.
Added O'Neill: "Super thankful for him. He's been fun. Having him around has really, really benefitted me. He's handled that like a true professional."