EAGAN, Minn. — By now, everyone's seen the splashy pick-six by Vikings linebacker Troy Dye last Saturday against the Colts.
The 33-yard return after a deflected pass gave Minnesota a 7-3 lead in the first quarter and wound up being the game's only touchdown.
Less conspicuous but more important to the second-year pro's development and potential impact of the team was his relaying of calls from the sideline as a player wearing the green dot helmet.
The role has usually been manned by Anthony Barr since 2014. The former first-round pick excelled early and found that it benefited his understanding of Head Coach Mike Zimmer's defense.
Barr suffered a season-ending torn pec at Indianapolis in Week 2 of the 2020 season, and Dye stepped in for his first NFL action on defense.
The 2020 fourth-rounder played through an ankle injury that day, but it caused him to land on Injured Reserve for a shorter term. He missed four games but returned to appear in nine of Minnesota's final 10 of his rookie season.
With Barr sidelined for most of the month of August, the Vikings have been getting more green dot experience for other players.
Dye was asked Saturday night after playing 31 snaps on defense and relaying calls how it went, and the former Oregon Duck said, "It was great."
"I have a mic on during practice, as well, so I think as time goes on, it gets a little bit easier to understand the calls and stuff like that, when there's a little more pressure on you," Dye said. "But just to know the verbiage and stuff like that … it's great to get the week [before] the game, because sometimes the mic will cut out, or you just kind of don't hear the whole call, and you can kind of piece stuff together if you already have a routine and kind of understand what the full call is.
"I just think that comes with running the defense, just continue to go, and everything just comes with time," Dye added. "Anthony [Barr] does a really good job with it, so when the next person comes in you really have to try to emulate his leadership and the way he controls the huddle and the way he gets it out and gets everybody set up. But yeah, there's definitely room for improvement still, but I think I did a good job handling it."
Vikings Co-Defensive Coordinator and linebackers coach Adam Zimmer said he's seen Dye progress with the benefit of a full offseason program and preseason games — opportunities that weren't available for last year's draft class because of COVID-19.
"Troy, I think he's grown up a little bit from his rookie year. He's really locked into the details of his assignments," Zimmer said. "I think calling the huddle has been really good for him because he has to get people lined up. He has to get the ball. It's on him if everything's not right. I think he's got his arrows going in the right direction right now. The last two weeks, he's had a good two weeks."
The Vikings responded after a disappointing showing against the Broncos in their first preseason game, a contest in which Minnesota rested all projected starters except for Stephen Weatherly and D.J. Wonnum, who are competing for the starting defensive end job opposite Danielle Hunter.
The bounce-back involved more snaps for starters, as well as the rest of the roster becoming more locked in with the defense.
"I think we did a really good job as a unit, going out there and just reading our keys and dialing [in] on things," Dye said. "Definitely still things we have to clean up, myself included. There was a pull on one of them, I have to get over the top. I kind of stayed backside and didn't hit the B gap where I was supposed to be. So it's just small, minute things like that, that can really change the whole aspect of the game, from going to a first down to a second-and-8, which makes a big difference on the play call that Coach can call in the game."
It remains to be seen if starters will play in Friday's preseason finale at Kansas City or what calls might be sent in from the sideline, but Dye will be ready to relay them if asked to do so.