EAGAN, Minn. — Brett Jones changed teams in the blink of an eye.
The new Vikings center was at practice Sunday with the New York Giants when he received word that he had been traded. Jones was promptly pulled from the field and made plans to head to Minnesota.
“It’s been a whirlwind, just getting on the plane yesterday and coming here,” Jones said. “I’m really excited and really happy to be here with the Minnesota Vikings.
“I was at practice … they came out and got me and right after that they said, ‘The Vikings are going to call you to set up the travel.’ The rest is history,” Jones added. “They told me right on the field that it was going to happen. I was pretty surprised but excited at the same time.”
Jones has started 14 of the 30 games he’s played for the Giants in the past two seasons, including 13 of 16 games in 2017.
Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer offered his assessment of the 27-year-old who is listed at 6-foot-2.
“On the tape, he’s pretty good,” Zimmer said. “He’s stout, strong, real gritty, good in pass protection, solid on the double teams.
“He’s about 315, so he’s short but he’s thick,” Zimmer also added.
Zimmer said he expects Jones to play in Thursday night’s preseason finale at Tennessee, and the lineman said he’s fine at both guard and center.
Vikings Offensive Coordinator John DeFilippo said Monday morning that Jones could have an easier transition than most. He has been in an offensive system under Giants head coach Pat Shurmur, who was Minnesota’s offensive coordinator in 2017.
“He’s going to be an interior guy. We’ll see what he knows,” DeFilippo said. “There should be some carryover coming from the Giants with Coach [Pat] Shurmur, I would think.
“His learning curve will hopefully be a little bit quicker than somebody coming from another team that has no idea of kind of what we’re trying to do offensively. It’s going to be a little bit different; some of the protections are going to be a little bit different and the way we’re calling things,” DeFilippo said. “From a run game standpoint, I think that it’s going to be very similar to what he was exposed to in New York. But we’re going to, obviously, work him in to the interior both at center and at guard.”
Said Jones: “One of the things Coach Shurmur told me is that the offense would be pretty similar. There is definitely a lot of similarities, and it’s been a good transition so far for me to catch on to the plays and words and things like that.”
Jones said he’s trying to get up to speed while also not overwhelming himself.
“You try to take it one day at a time and one play at a time in practice,” Jones said. “If you worry about the whole picture, it can get blurry.
“If you take little bites each and every day and just work hard, the rest will take care of itself,” Jones added. “I’m just excited to get with the coaches and keep learning the playbook and get out there and perform. It’s what I was brought here to do.”
Jones hails from Canada, as his hometown of Weyburn is about 700 miles northwest of Minneapolis and is in the province of Saskatchewan.
Jones played at the University of Regina before transitioning to the Canadian Football League for two seasons. He spent the past three seasons with the Giants before heading back north.
But the newest Viking had some Minnesota ties before joining the Vikings.
Jones said Monday that his first-ever NFL game was in December of 2009 when he watched the Vikings get a 30-10 win over the Bengals at the Metrodome.
“I think there’s a lot of Purple up there [in Saskatchewan]. This is probably the closest stadium you could get to,” Jones said. “The first [NFL] game I saw was at the Metrodome … the Bengals at the Vikings.
“I wore a Phil Loadholt jersey,” Jones added, mentioning the former tackle who made 89 starts for the Vikings from 2009-2014. “I was a big NCAA fan on Xbox, so he was a good player coming out [of Oklahoma]. Nobody else had it. I just liked offensive linemen and didn’t think anyone would have that jersey.”
Danielle Hunter has been one of the standouts on the Vikings defense in preseason play, as the 23-year-old has prepared for his fourth season.
The defensive end has a sack and racked up numerous additional pressures, but likely won’t play Thursday against the Titans.
Vikings Defensive Coordinator George Edwards said Monday that Hunter benefits from the fact that he can rush from both sides of the defensive line.
Edwards said Hunter has to adjust his footwork and rushing lane depending on which side he is one, but added the former third-round pick is a quick learner.
“I really think he has made a big jump, feeling comfortable systematically as well as technique and fundamental wise of what we’re asking him to do,” Edwards said “He’s not thinking nearly as much.
“You can really see his athleticism as we go through the preseason,” Edwards added. “He’s really gotten off of the ball and affected the quarterback, getting him off of the spot, those kinds of things, but he’s also very good versus the run.”
Hunter has 25.5 career sacks, which leads all players taken in the 2015 NFL Draft.
Bring on the blitz
The Vikings offense has seen a myriad of blitzes through the first three preseason games against Denver, Jacksonville and Seattle.
Bring it on, DeFilippo said.
DeFilippo said Monday that he actually embraces teams who blitz in the preseason, as it helps an offense get up to speed once the real action rolls around.
“Yeah, absolutely,” DeFilippo said. “I think if you’re up against a vanilla defense every day, I do think during the season it can shock you if you open up against a team that does like to pressure a lot.
“The teams that we’ve played so far this preseason [have blitzed], and every day in practice we’re lucky enough to have plenty of blitz looks,” DeFilippo added. “And not only blitz looks but really, really difficult blitzes.”