EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — The Vikings defense will see a pair of vastly different styles from the same position Monday night in Chicago.
Bears running backs Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen will be a focal point as the duo has combined to tally 633 of the 1,225 yards (51.2 percent) accumulated by Chicago's offense in 2017.
"They have a great kind of 1-2 punch," said Vikings safety Harrison Smith. "Very different backs and both very good."
The Vikings know Howard well, as he ran for 288 yards in a pair of games against Minnesota in 2016. Howard sparked the Bears to a win on *Monday Night Football *in Week 7 of the 2016 season by rushing for 153 yards, including a 69-yard run on Chicago's third play from scrimmage.
Howard ran for 1,313 yards and six touchdowns during his rookie season. Smith said that while Howard can show off his speed when needed, the running back is also strong enough to pick up yards after contact.
"He's obviously a big guy," Smith said. "He's one of those guys that gets the extra couple yards here and there … it doesn't seem like a lot to people watching but instead of second-and-8, it's second-and-6.
"Stuff like that … that's what makes him so effective," Smith added.
Howard leads the Bears with 252 rushing yards and four touchdowns, but Cohen has more total yards as a dual-threat out of the backfield.
The rookie out of North Carolina A&T has 331 combined yards, and is second on the team with 150 receiving yards. Cohen also leads Chicago with 24 receptions.
Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer said his defense will need to wrap up against Cohen, who is listed at 5-foot-6 and 181 pounds and is elusive all over the field.
"In space, the little guys are hard to get to," Zimmer said. "They have the advantage because they're quicker than most guys and typically faster.
"The big guys are going to try and run you over. It's a different type of tackling," Zimmer said. "When you get in space with those guys, not too specifically, I'm just talking in general, they don't have the wiggle that the little guys do. Space is a little guy's friend, typically."
The Vikings rank third against the run in the NFL and are averaging just 71.3 rushing yards allowed per game. Howard and Cohen have combined to rush for 108.3 yards per game.
A rare opportunity
The Vikings were involved in a rare play Sunday against the Lions when Marcus Sherels got the chance to return a missed field goal at the end of the first half.
Sherels corralled Matt prater's missed kick nine yards deep in the end zone and eventually made it out to the 31-yard line for a 40-yard return.
Vikings Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer spoke about the play Friday and said although Minnesota doesn't consistently practice the rare play, Sherels and the Vikings had a chance for a game-breaking return against Detroit.
"We practice it in the spring. We practice it during training camp. It's hard to find time to practice it all the time, but we talk about it every week," Priefer said. "We have a 10-minute field goal block/defense day type meeting normally every Friday. We'll have it obviously this week on Saturday. That is the last thing we talk about with our field goal block unit; where the direction of the rush is coming from and then the direction of the return.
"We do cover that every week, but you don't get a lot of time to practice it. The guys are ready for it," Priefer said. "I figured if we had finished the block on 72 [Detroit's Brian Mihalik], the young man who made the play, he made a great play for a big offensive lineman, he's a good athlete, too, he made a good play for them. I think that would have been a big difference maker for our game."
Floyd 'chomping at the bit' to be back on game day
Adam Thielen was ready to get back on the practice field this week after a four-game suspension, but he's even more eager to get in some game-day action.
Kyle Rudolph and Harrison Smith, who played with Floyd at Notre Dame, both talked about Floyd's readiness.
"He's been chomping at the bit to get back at it. I know he's glad to get back out here, but he knows there's a lot of work to do," Smith said Thursday. "I'm pretty pumped to see what it looks like on game day."
Rudolph, who is housing his former roommate during the season, said that Floyd became more excited as this week approached.
"He's excited to go out there, and I'm excited to have him back," Rudolph said.
Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer said Floyd has "a good chance to play" when the Vikings face the division-rival Bears on *Monday Night Football. *When asked by media members what type of balance he expects between Floyd and second-year receiver Laquon Treadwell, Zimmer said it will just depend on "different packages" and what the offense calls for.
The two players have similar builds, but Zimmer reminded that there's more to consider than size.
"All those guys are a little bit unique," Zimmer said. "Just because they're big guys doesn't mean [they're the same]."
View practice images from the Vikings Friday, October 6 practice at Winter Park.
For the Vikings: Rashod Hill (knee) did not participate. Shamar Stephen (back), Andrew Sendejo (shoulder/illness), Kyle Rudolph (knee) and Jayron Kearse (groin) were limited. Eric Kendricks (illness), Jerick McKinnon (ankle) and Tom Johnson (knee) were full participants.
For the Bears: Nick Kwiatkoski (chest) and Willie Young (elbow) did not participate. Hronsis Grasu (hand) and Akiem Hicks (foot) were limited.