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Vikings D-Line Showcases Depth, Work Ethic

If there's one unit that shows off the Vikings depth, it's the defensive line.

In fact, the talented group was recently ranked as the seventh-best defensive line in the league.

Defensive end Everson Griffen and defensive tackle Linval Joseph lead a unit that helped the Vikings defense allow just 18.9 points per game last season, good for fifth in the NFL.

Griffen finished with 49 tackles and led the Vikings in sacks (10.5), tackles for loss (17) and quarterback hurries (76) last season. It was Griffen's second straight season with double-digit sacks, and he was the NFC Defensive Player of the Week in Week 17.

Joseph simply took over games in 2015, finishing with 71 tackles, eight tackles for loss, 26 quarterback hurries and one-half sack. Joseph earned NFC Defensive Player of the Week honors in Week 9 after three tackles for loss and four quarterback hits against the Rams.

Defensive end Brian Robison and defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd were the other primary starters in 2015 for the Vikings.

Robison is entering his 10th season in purple and has amassed 48.5 career sacks, 5.0 of which came last year.

Floyd was a first-round pick in 2013 and racked up 37 tackles, 2.5 sacks and seven tackles for loss in 2015.

Substantial Stats

Defensive end Danielle Hunter was a rookie and the youngest player in the league at just 20 years old in 2015.

Hunter, a third-round pick out of LSU, finished second among all rookies with six sacks.

The youngster, who was also second on the Vikings in sacks, played roughly 36 percent of Minnesota's defensive snaps in 2015.

Notable Quote

Minnesota's defense has steadily improved under Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer, who often preaches that success is only possible with a collective effort.

Perhaps no unit has taken that to heart as much as the defensive line, a group that must work cohesively in the trenches. Certain assignments on plays are less conducive to the stat sheet but critical to team success.

"I feel like d-line is not just about what you can do for yourself, it's about what you can do for the guy next to you," Floyd said. "We do such a good job of playing off each other and playing for each other that everything starts to take care of itself after a while. You know, we don't notice in the heat of the moment, but we actually take pressure off of each other as we play.

"It's a huge [philosophy] for us, especially at d-line," he added. "We tell each other, 'Do your job so I don't have to think about you not doing your job – so I don't have to do your job and my job.' It just leaves one less thing to think about, and you can play that much faster knowing and trusting that the guy next to you is going to do what he needs to do."

View the best images of the defensive linemen from the Vikings' offsesaon program.

Coach's Corner

Spend a few minutes at a Vikings practice and it's easy to notice the energy that radiates from defensive line drills.

Whether it's Griffen and Robison showing young players how to improve their technique, or Hunter working on sled drills, the group is always striving to improve.

"I think we've brought them up the right way," defensive line coach Andre Patterson said. "They come out here every day and they grind.

"Coach Zimmer has to come over to me and say pull them back," he added. "I don't have to talk about effort anymore. They come out here and they work."

The Depth Chart

With the Vikings lining up in nickel and dime packages more than half of the time to counter passing situations, defensive tackle Tom Johnson became a vital piece to Minnesota's defense in 2015.

Johnson was third on the team with 5.5 sacks and second with 50 quarterback hurries. He finished with 26 tackles.

Defensive end Justin Trattou made the most of his limited opportunities in 2015. He played just 22 defensive snaps but tied for second on the team with a pair of interceptions.

Defensive tackle Shamar Stephen has solid size but missed most of the 2015 season due to a toe injury. Minnesota signed defensive tackle Kenrick Ellis as a free agent in October.

Defensive end Scott Crichton appeared in 13 games before being sidelined because of an injury. Defensive end Zach Moore was signed from the practice squad to take his place. Defensive tackle Toby Johnson was added to the practice squad between the regular season and the Wild Card game.

Minnesota drafted defensive end Stephen Weatherly in the seventh round of the 2016 NFL Draft. The Vikings also added defensive linemen Denzell Perine and Theiren Cockran as undrafted free agents.

The Vikings signed defensive tackle Travis Raciti during offseason workouts.

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