BKU Working On His Progression

First-round draft choice Kenechi Udeze has already faced Bryant McKinnie and Willie Roaf during training camp, but on Thursday he gets to go against Seattle's Walter Jones, who, like Roaf, is another of the best offensive tackles in the game. It's all part of Udeze's rookie progression, and he talks about his learning experience this summer.

In three preseason games, rookie defensive end Kenechi Udeze has gone against Kwame Harris (San Francisco), Kevin Shaffer (Atlanta) and Leonard Davis (Arizona). While Harris is a solid left tackle and Udeze said he thought Davis was about as big of an opposing lineman he would face this season, Udeze's best test of the preseason — and maybe the regular season — is about to come.

When the Vikings travel to play Seattle Thursday, Udeze will be trying to get to quarterback Matt Hasselbeck with Pro Bowl tackle Walter Jones standing in his way. While the starters might play only three series, Udeze also will face Jones again on Dec. 12 when the two teams meet again.

It is these sorts of tests the rookie has been preparing for since he suited up as a pro this summer. He got a good first test early in training camp when the Vikings squared off for a scrimmage against Kansas City.

"I got to go against Willie Roaf, a 12-time Pro Bowler," Udeze said. "It was great work. I really was excited about doing that, and I'm happy I got to see other competition across the league."

"It should be interesting to see how I fare against other people in the NFL cause we do have one of the best offensive lines in the NFL."

Of course, Udeze does get to work his fledgling technique against the Vikings' Bryant McKinnie in practice, and McKinnie should get some consideration for the Pro Bowl this season. Udeze likely won't be Pro Bowl caliber during his rookie year, but the first-round draft pick has been working on the experience all preseason.

The speed of the game is an obvious difference between college and the pros and something Udeze was getting used to in training camp. But he also says the consistency of the professionals impresses him.

"In college football the guys will give you crappy sets. You get out here and everything is professional — everybody has great balance, everybody has great feet. You kind of have to be a perfectionist in your pass rush, and that's what I'm still learning," he said.

"Everybody sets different, from McKinnie to [the Vikings' Mike] Rosenthal to Roaf to [Kansas City's John] Welbourn. Everybody sets different and I have to look at that to make my fair assessment of how to go about pass rushing."

Early on, Udeze said he was trying to do too much and he knew it.

"I kind of catch myself jumping out of my playing ability," he said. "I kind of feel like I have to jump over a pile and go sack the quarterback. I just have to do what I've been doing all these years and go sack the quarterback."

He came to the Vikings with a unique style, one that displayed good footwork, but those who know defensive line play thought he needed to learn how to use his hands to lock out the blocker. While he works on his pass-rushing technique that has yielded two preseason sacks in three games, he also is honing his all-around play and wants to model his football savvy after a few of the game's recent greats on the defensive line.

"There are a lot of guys that didn't really get a lot of attention and weren't really looked at as a key pass rusher. As far as emulating anybody right now, I'd say Hugh Douglass in his good days and even a Bruce Smith. I really try to emulate my game after Bruce Smith because he was one of the ends that played the run and the pass equally as well. He never really slacked on one of them, so I hope to be that guy."

"It's crazy. You've got to see these big guys, 6-8, 350, and they can move like deer. They're really agile. I just have to step my game up and, with time, become that dominant pass rusher."


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