Tom Dahlin/Viking Update

Notebook: Minnesota Vikings defense wins the red zone

The Minnesota Vikings defense is expected to be very good this year and it showed up in a big way in the red zone drills.

“Vikings” and “versatility” are two words that could be married often in 2016.

Since Mike Zimmer took over as head coach of the Minnesota Vikings, he has been preaching about how much he likes versatile defenders. That’s been especially apparent during his third training camp in charge, and Friday’s red zone period of practice put one big exclamation point on that sentiment.

During full-team work in the red zone, QB Teddy Bridgewater threw back-to-back interceptions, each with a caveat.

First it was LB Anthony Barr picking off a pass that was tipped at the line of scrimmage and next it was DE Brian Robison pulling in a two-handed catch near the line of scrimmage.

“You know he was a big-time linebacker coming out of high school,” LB Chad Greenway said of Robison. “Just awareness, knowledge of the defense. Awareness being able to stand up rather than having his hand in the ground. It’s hard for a lot of D-line to do, but he did grow up playing linebacker, which I think gives us some advantages.”

Robison was recruited to Texas as a linebacker, but eventually made the switch to the defensive line.

In the early stages of his career, the Vikings even moved him inside to defensive tackle on pass-rushing downs to get more quickness there. He’s back to doing more of that this year with Danielle Hunter offering another pass-rushing option at end to pair with Everson Griffen.

The Vikings have had Robison dropping back into coverage before, but that might happen more often this year and Greenway said it’s a different role being asked of Robison.

“Tremendously different. Just like any veteran that is moving on his career is finding ways to help the football team win and he’s done that,” Greenway said. “He’s proven to be a consistent performer on the edge, but we want to win. We want to win football games. That’s what it’s all about and we just want to get to a point where we can scheme to the point where we’re going to have success.”


Barr, of course, has been known for his versatility, as well, and it continues to show up in training camp. While he came away with the interception while in coverage during red zone drills, he also had a touch sack of Bridgewater when the Vikings were at midfield.

“Versatility is so crucial in our defense,” Greenway said, pointing out that the versatility goes well beyond Robison and Barr. “Flexibility in our own scheme is huge, the ability to move guys around. We get schemed within our own scheme from our own offense and that’s good for us to see those types of things. But Anthony’s versatility is what makes him great and I think his willingness to do what it takes and his great mental approach is huge.”


  • RB Jerick McKinnon (back) and Cordarrelle Patterson (shoulder) were both in pads for the afternoon practice working their way back from injuries, but neither of them got work during the full-team parts of practice.
  • T.J. Clemmings was back working with the first-team offense as he and Andre Smith rotate at right tackle. Smith got two days in a row with the starting offense, but that ended on Friday with Clemmings back in the rotation.
  • WR Stefon Diggs had a standout day on offense. He caught a 40-yard pass from Bridgewater with Terence Newman in coverage and one play later caught a 30-yard pass with Harrison Smith trailing behind him.
  • WR Adam Thielen continues to get a lot of work as the third receiver with the starting offense, along with Laquon Treadwell. Thielen caught a 10-yard touchdown pass from Bridgewater during red zone work. Treadwell appeared to have a miscommunication with Bridgewater during one red zone pass that fell incomplete.
  • WR Moritz Böhringer made a great adjustment on a Shaun Hill pass, diving for a 20-yard completion. The catch drew loud applause from the crowd.
  • Zimmer said he would like to get the depth chart relatively set on Sunday, following the Saturday night practice under the lights of Blakeslee Stadium. “It may not be solid at that point in time, but Sunday we’re going to have a long discussion about all the situations you’re talking about and how we can start moving forward and see if it’s the right combination of guys,” Zimmer said.
  • DT Linval Joseph continues to be dominant in one-on-one work.
  • RG Brandon Fusco did not participate on one-on-one drills at the end of practice. He got up slowly after a play in the red zone earlier in practice, but returned for that portion of practice.


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