EAGAN, Minn. – The Vikings defensive line has undergone changes over the past number of weeks.
The unit is still without Pro Bowl defensive end Danielle Hunter, who is on Injured Reserve and has not practiced since Aug. 14. Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer spoke with media members Wednesday and was asked if he had any updates after a second opinion that Hunter recently sought out in New York.
"No, not really. Still kind of mulling his options, I think," Zimmer said.
Meanwhile, Minnesota is getting more and more out of defensive end Yannick Ngakoue, who signed as a free agent with the Vikings just before Week 1.
Through the first five games of the season, Ngakoue leads the team with five sacks, two of which came against Deshaun Watson in the Vikings Week 4 win at Houston. He's also recorded 10 tackles, four tackles for loss, seven quarterback hits and two forced fumbles.
"I think he continues to fit in better, understand what we're trying to get him to do," Zimmer said. "He's obviously added a little bit of juice to the pass rush, so hopefully we can keep that going."
Another player who recently got in on Minnesota's pass rush is rookie defensive tackle James Lynch, who saw his first NFL game action at Seattle on Sunday Night Football. Lynch played just eight defensive snaps but recorded his first career sack (and tackle for loss) against Russell Wilson.
"He's just starting to get better each week," Zimmer said of the fourth-round pick. "We thought we'd take a look at him. He was fine during the game."
The Vikings signed defensive end Jordan Brailford off of Washington’s practice squad this week. When Minnesota added Brailford to the 53-man roster, the corresponding move was waiving Hercules Mata'afa.
"Herc's a good kid. He's worked really hard," Zimmer said. "We just needed some other bodies at the time."
The Vikings also signed to the practice squad Eddie Yarbrough, who was released last week in order to elevate George Iloka to the active roster.
Here are four other topics Zimmer addressed during his media session:
1. Maintaining a high morale
The Vikings are heading into Week 6 with a 1-4 record.
Despite the tough start, though, players in the locker room have expressed optimism and confidence in what they know this team is capable of.
Zimmer was asked about the team's mentality and morale maintenance.
"Well, if you look, we've played three undefeated teams (Green Bay, Tennessee and Seattle)," he said. "One team (Indianapolis) has got [two losses]; we've lost to two of those undefeated teams (the Titans and Seahawks) by one point.
"We're getting better every week," Zimmer added. "We've just got to keep getting better, and the wins will come."
View images of games between the Vikings and Falcons through the years.
2. New leadership in Atlanta
The Vikings will host the Falcons for their first game under Interim Head Coach Raheem Morris, who was elevated after Atlanta fired Dan Quinn in the wake of the team's 0-5 start.
Zimmer doesn't expect the Falcons to look much different, though, so soon after the coaching switch.
"I don't think they'll change a whole lot. They may be more aggressive," he said. "We'll go back and look at the analytics of when [Morris] was at Tampa Bay (2009-11) and kind of see if there was anything different there. But as far as schemes, it's kind of hard to change in three days."
Zimmer acknowledged, though, that teams are sometimes more fired up or motivated following a change in leadership, so the Vikings will need to be on their toes.
View photos of the Vikings 53-man roster as of January 4, 2021.
3. New faces on Falcons offense
Atlanta this offseason added new weapons on offense in former Rams running back Todd Gurley II and former Ravens tight end Hayden Hurst.
Gurley currently leads the Falcons in rushing with 375 yards and five touchdowns.
"They've improved quite a bit [with those guys]," Zimmer said. "Gurley is a really good downhill, one-cut runner. He carries his pads low, has speed to get to the perimeter. They're using him in a variety of different ways as far as the runs. Then he's been good in protections, as well.
"Hurst is a guy that is very athletic. They do a nice job with him in the blocking," Zimmer added. "And then he's had some opportunities to get down the field with him."
4. Good things from Gladney
Vikings rookie cornerback Jeff Gladney has continued to improve with each outing and had a solid game against the Seahawks.
"He's a tough kid. He didn't back down from anybody," Zimmer said. "He's got a lot on his plate, playing inside and outside. I think he's feeling more comfortable each and every week. He's been getting a lot of playing time, and [defensive backs coach] Daronte Jones is doing a good job with these young kids."