MINNEAPOLIS – When Ifeadi Odenigbo saw his teammate go down, he knew the Vikings could have a problem.
What he didn't know, however, is that he'd be the solution.
Six minutes into the second quarter, defensive end Ade Aruna was injured on a play and carted off the field. Odenigbo, who played defensive end last season but has been playing solely on the interior this spring and summer, realized that depth would be an issue.
"I [was thinking], 'Oh, they don't have many D-ends," Odenigbo said. "But then Coach is like, 'Ifeadi. I need you to play D-end.' "
Odenigbo was caught off guard but answered the call – and it paid off.
Having gotten used to playing 3-technique, Odenigbo believes the transition helped him to become a more physical rusher and better enables him to handle offensive tackles and tight ends coming around the edge.
"Playing d-tackle, that's the trenches, man," Odenigbo said. "You're going against those guards, those double teams, you've got 600 pads on your back."
He paused to imitate his stance, grunted and referenced the Black Panther film: "I'm like … Wakanda!"
Odenigbo went to work on the outside, getting to the next level, around the corner and to the quarterback.
The second-year lineman got his first sack early in the third quarter. On third-and-16 from the Jaguars 36, quarterback Cody Kessler dropped back and was tracked down by Odenigbo, who tackled him for an 8-yard loss that forced a punt.
Odenigbo struck again in the fourth quarter, getting to Kessler on first down for a 5-yard loss. He celebrated the wrap-up by driving an imaginary sword into the turf.
The former Northwestern Wildcat explained that the sack celebration goes back to his college days.
"I'm a huge Game of Thrones fan, and George Martin, the guy who created Game of Thrones, went to Northwestern. It's kind of a tribute to him," Odenigbo explained. "So I said when I get to the NFL, I'm going to pull out the sword and stab it into the ground.
"B-Rob was just roasting me the whole time," Odenigbo laughed of his veteran teammate, Brian Robison. "He's just like, 'Ifeadi, that's terrible. You need to go home and practice. I don't know what that is.' "
After spending the 2017 season on Minnesota's practice squad, Odenigbo said it felt good to sack a quarterback for the first time since last preseason. And while it's never a positive thing to see a teammate get injured, he was grateful for a chance to put play at both positions on tape.
While Robison didn't hold back from ribbing his younger teammate, he did speak highly of Odenigbo's performance.
"He did good. When your name is called, you have to show up, and he did that today. He had a heck of a game," Robison said. "Obviously, we have to go back and look at the tape and make sure he was doing everything he was supposed to do right. But any time you can get to the quarterback the way he did, that's great for us."
Fellow defensive end Stephen Weatherly said Odenigbo's performance was a testament to his preparedness.
"He came in as a d-end last year, was asked to play at 3-tech [this season], and to be asked spur of the moment to go back in there and play end, that's big ups to him," Weatherly said. "He knew what to do, he knew how to execute, and he had an amazing performance today."
Odenigbo finished the game with two sacks as well as another crucial tackle of Kessler that forced the quarterback to throw an incomplete pass on third-and-12.
He wasn't the only one getting to the quarterback, though.
Earlier in the game, Weatherly and Ben Gedeon split a sack of starter Blake Bortles. Eric Wilson and Anthony Harris also each took a turn at taking down Kessler.
Harris made his move early in the fourth quarter. The Jaguars lined up on third-and-10 from the Vikings 28-yard line, and Harris came flying in from the right with the safety blitz. He made it untouched to the quarterback, dropping Kessler for a 12-yard loss and knocking Jacksonville out of field goal range.
"[We were] trying to pressure a good amount today. I tried to do a good job of disguising," Harris said. "And on that play, I believe they had a screen, so their job was to let me come free but not quite as quickly. I think [linebacker Devante Downs] did a good job of reading it.
"I won't know until we watch the film, but I think he was on the running back, so he caused the quarterback to kind of hold the ball a little bit longer than they would have liked," Harris continued. "I was able to get the sack. It contributed to him doing a good job of being able to read the play and just doing a good play call."
Despite the Vikings general success defensively, Minnesota fell to Jacksonville in its second game of the preseason.
Several of the players stressed the importance of getting back to the classroom and breaking down what mistakes can be fixed moving forward.
"There are some positives to take away from this game," Harris said. "But we're going to look and see because they had some success on some plays, and we'll see where we can get better or maybe do things differently.
"At the end of the day, we want to come out here with a winning mindset. That's something we want to start building now, and we want to play at a high level – not just defensively but also offensively and on special teams, as well," added Harris. "We just have to get on the film and look to see how we all can play well throughout all three phrases, and hopefully that way we can be successful at the end of the game."