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Drafted Defensive Ends Jones & Robinson Assess NFL Beginnings


EAGAN, Minn. — Saturday's preseason opener didn't count in the standings, but don't tell that to Patrick Jones II and Janarius Robinson.

The pair of rookie defensive ends each made their NFL debuts against the Broncos in a game that might have felt a little like the Super Bowl for both.

"They were wide-eyed," Vikings Assistant Head Coach/Co-Defensive Coordinator Andre Patterson said of the duo. "You come in our place and there's fans in there and they're yelling and screaming, it's going to do it to anybody. That's just being a human."

Both rookies said Monday that they were a little amped up to be on an NFL field in game action for the first time.

"I was definitely excited," Jones said. "It was my first NFL game, and I had nerves going all over the place. That's just part of being a rookie, I guess. I was excited."

Robinson added: "Pregame, before we actually went out there, I just walked around on the field and was thankful and blessed for the opportunity to be in the NFL."

Neither rookie got the start, even with the Vikings holding out most starters, but both played a significant amount after Patterson took a look at veteran Stephen Weatherly and second-year pro D.J. Wonnum.

Jones was on the field for 29 defensive snaps, and made a splash play early in the third quarter when he brought down running back LeVante Bellamy for a 4-yard loss.

"It felt good making my first play like that on the big stage," Jones said. "It was pretty cool."

But according to Patterson, Jones' nice debut could have been even more noticeable.

"You did see Pat flash. He made some plays in the backfield," Patterson said. "Matter of fact, he could've had four if he ran the call. Three times he didn't run the defense. If he would've run the defense he would've had three more tackles for losses.

"But you saw him flash some quickness, flash some strength at the line of scrimmage," Patterson added. "So, he did some good things in the game but he made some bonehead mistakes, too."

Jones, a 2021 third-round pick out of Pittsburgh, was his own worst critic when he was asked about Patterson's assessment of his game.

"After the game, I felt fine physically and mentally. But I knew there was stuff I could clean up, so I was hard on myself once I watched the film," Jones said. "I saw a lot of plays I left on the field, so that has to get better."

"It was mental errors," Jones added. "I got out there, and with some of my nerves, I left some plays out there on the field. It was my first game, so I have to look at it and get better."

Robinson, meanwhile, played 24 snaps against Denver. His splashiest play came late in the third quarter when he deflected a pass and nearly came down with the pigskin for an interception.

"That was pretty crazy. I actually went up to block it and then realized I had a chance to catch, it" said Robinson, who was drafted in the fourth round out of Florida State. "It came fast, so I wasn't able to pick it off. But it was a good experience to make plays and enjoy it."

Both players aren't in line to start as rookies, but they could play important depth roles along the defensive line once the regular season begins.

That means each day is critical as Jones and Robinson continue to learn and adapt to the NFL. For Jones, that means always being near Danielle Hunter for tips and advice.

"He's been great. I talk to him after almost every play," Jones said. "He's been coaching me up and acts like a mentor toward me. I'm just grateful for someone who plays at that level being able to help me out."

Robinson, who received a post-practice encouragement talk from former FSU and NFL cornerback Bryant McFadden, said he is willing to learn from everyone. Robinson had been a guest of McFadden and Patrick Peterson on the "All Things Covered" podcast before the draft.

"I'm out here trying to grow and get information from anybody that I can, whether it's coaches or people I see. Just trying to pick people's brains to see what I can improve on," Robinson said. "Every day I'm out here, I pick one specific thing to try to improve on and build off those things each and every day."

View the best photos from the Vikings-Broncos preseason game at U.S. Bank Stadium by the Vikings team photographer.

Jones is among the teammates he chats with about how to improve their games.

"We lean on each other every now and then with different things, just try to help each other out as best we can," Robinson said.

The pair will likely get their second chance at game action Saturday when the Colts are in town for the second preseason game.

Patterson said Monday that he'll continue working with both players to get incrementally better as the weeks go by.

"I always try to tell them, 'I'm going to be honest with you, and I got your best interest at heart.' So when I stop coaching you and I stop talking to you and I stop raising my voice, then that means it's over. I don't care anymore," Patterson said. "So as long as I'm talking to you, I'm coaching you, that means I have your best interest at heart and it's never personal. I'm just trying to get you better."

As for Jones and Robinson, the hope is that they are a little more used to the atmosphere and excitement of an NFL game.

That could allow them to relax and play freely as they look to earn spots on the Vikings roster.

"Just be more relaxed, follow all the plays and make sure I'm executing at a high level and follow my technique," Jones said of his expectations for Saturday. "I'm just taking it day-by-day. I'm out here on Monday trying to fix the mistakes I made on Saturday."

Robinson added: "With the technique and all that … the more reps we get, the more familiar we'll get adjusted to doing the things that are asked and required of you. It just comes with getting comfortable on the field."