The Vikings will open 2015 training camp with all four of their 2014 starters on the defensive line — Everson Griffen, Brian Robison, Sharrif Floyd and Linval Joseph — back with the team. That continuity, an increased understanding of how individual responsibilities fit the overall scheme and more playing time together should help the unit this fall.
Total going to camp: 14 (eight at DE; six at DT)
Total on 2014 opening day roster: 8 (4 at DE; 4 at DL; one of each on the practice squad)
Average age: 25.8 at DE; 25.7 at DT
Most experienced: Brian Robison — 32 years old; going into 9th season with 70 starts in 126 games played
Rookies: 3 (DE Danielle Hunter; DE B.J. DuBose; DT Chrishon Rose)
Position coaches: Andre Patterson, assisted by Robert Rodriguez
Minnesota was particularly encouraged by what Griffen delivered a year ago in his first season as a starter when he was named Vikings Defensive Player of the Year. He led the Vikings with 12 sacks, 21 tackles for loss and 70 quarterback hurries and was named NFC Defensive Player of the Month for October 2014, when he racked up an NFC-best 6.0 sacks in a four-game span. Robison added 4.5 sacks, 7.0 tackles for loss and 45 quarterback hits.
Sharrif Floyd showed the ability to penetrate the interior of the line on passes and recorded 4.5 sacks, 11 tackles for loss and 43 quarterback hurries. Joseph added 3.0 sacks, 7.0 tackles for loss and 27 quarterback hurries, but had primary responsibilities that differed from rushing the passer.
*Depth charge *
The Vikings obviously were pleased with what Tom Johnson delivered in a one-year contract a year ago and re-signed him to a multiyear deal this offseason. Johnson provided a push as an interior rusher in the nickel, finishing with a career-high 6.5 sacks. Once a journeyman, Johnson appears to have found a home here. Shamar Stephen was another defensive tackle who delivered positive results in his first year in Minnesota. The 2014 seventh-round pick was credited with 51 tackles by coaches and played in every game with three starts.
The Vikings, however, could benefit from production behind Griffen and Robison on the ends. Both players were in on more than 900 snaps a year ago, and accounted for all but one sack by a defensive end. Players and coaches said 2014 third-round pick Scott Crichton took a step forward this year with the benefit of a full offseason program, and the Vikings also added athletic Danielle Hunter in the third round of this year's draft. Hunter — the youngest player on the roster — won't turn 21 until Week 8 of the regular season.
B.J. DuBose, a draft classmate of Hunter's is a former teammate of Teddy Bridgewater in a 7-on-7 passing league in Florida and in college at Louisville. DuBose worked on the edge and inside during the offseason program.
Justin Trattou, who worked his way up from the practice squad last season, is back after contributing on defense and special teams in the final four games of 2014. The Vikings used free agency to add Leon Mackey and Caesar Rayford at defensive end, and Chigbo Anunoby and Chrishon Rose at defensive tackle. The non-contact nature of the Vikings offseason program allowed coaches to make some evaluations of defensive linemen, but a clearer picture will develop once pads go on in camp.