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Lunchbreak: Trio of Vikings DEs Ranked Among All-Time Best

From the vaunted Purple People Eaters to the current stout group, the Vikings have been known to hang their hat on having a strong defense.

That has meant having a stable of relentless pass rushers, something Gil Brandt of has taken notice of.

Brandt, who has spent more than six decades around the NFL, recently unveiled his top defensive ends of all time.

Minnesota was represented three times by Carl Eller, Chris Doleman and Jared Allen — players who starred in separate decades.

Eller was the highest-ranked Vikings player at No. 8.

The Pro Football Hall of Famer played in Minnesota from 1964 to 1978 and unofficially recorded 133.5 career sacks, which would rank No. 12 on all-time list. (Sacks did not become an official stat until 1982).

Eller, the 1971 NFL Defensive Player of the Year, made six Pro Bowls and was a five-time All-Pro selection.

A member of the NFL's All-Decade Team in the 1970s, the durable Eller missed just three games in his entire career and had seven seasons of 10-plus sacks.

Eller is a member of the Vikings Ring of Honor along with Doleman, the ninth-ranked player on Brandt's list.

Doleman was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2012 and made the NFL's All-Decade Team in the 1990s.

He played 10 total seasons in Purple and made eight Pro Bowls and a pair of All-Pro teams in his career.

Doleman's 21 sacks led the NFL in 1989, and his 150.5 career sacks rank fourth all time.

Allen was the first player mentioned on Brandt's rankings as he slotted in at No. 30.

Allen played six total seasons with the Vikings and was the 2011 NFL Defensive Player of the Year.

His 136 career sacks rank 11th on the all-time list, and he tallied an NFL-record four safeties.

A five-time Pro Bowler and four-time First-Team All Pro, Allen twice led the NFL in sacks.

Vikings have options on deep defensive line

The Vikings seemingly have plenty of options at defensive tackle, a good thing for a unit that likes to continually get after the quarterback and stuff the run.

Andrew Krammer of the Star Tribune recently took a look at the position heading into training camp, and said the unit has more hands on deck for 2017.

Shamar Stephen started all 16 games in 2016, and Danielle Hunter continues to rehab from a knee injury, while Tom Johnson is also back for his fourth season in Purple.

But the Vikings brought in three fresh faces that could also contribute at defensive tackle.

Krammer noted that Datone Jones could make an impact after getting shuffled around while playing in Green Bay.

Signed from Green Bay, Jones is changing positions yet again with the hope of sticking as a defensive tackle for the Vikings. The former first-round pick was a rotational defender for the Packers, starting just seven of 67 games played with a career high of 3.5 sacks as a rookie in 2013. He can be a solid run defender, but when signed, the Vikings wanted him to bulk up for the move inside.

Minnesota also drafted former Iowa standout Jaleel Johnson in the fourth round of the 2017 NFL Draft.

Krammer wrote:

The Vikings see more versatility potential with Johnson, the Iowa product taken with the second pick of the fourth round. He impressed the Vikings with his ability to rush the passer, leading all Big Ten defensive tackles with 7.5 sacks last fall. Johnson has the potential to play both defensive tackle and nose spots, which could help him stand out in a crowded defensive line room.

Will Sutton is also an option at defensive tackle after spending the previous three seasons in Chicago.

The former Arizona State star could benefit from a change in scheme.

The Vikings don't believe Sutton's play for the Bears the previous two seasons, which includes 24 solo tackles and no sacks in 21 games, was indicative of the 25-year-old's potential. Chicago moved to a 3-4 defense after his rookie season, shifting Sutton from the guard's inside shoulder to his outside. The Vikings hope moving Sutton back closer to the football will create a surge for him, not unlike Tom Johnson when he resurrected his career by moving away from the Saints 3-4 defense.* *

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