MINNEAPOLIS -- Between now and the Minnesota Vikings' first training camp practice July 25, we will break down each position group.
Today, we'll take a look at the defensive line.
New this season: Linval Joseph (free agent from New York Giants), Tom Johnson (free agent from New Orleans), Corey Wootton (free agent from Chicago), Kheeston Randall (free agent from Cincinnati), Scott Crichton (third-round pick from Oregon State), Shamar Stephen (seventh-round pick from Connecticut), Rakim Cox (undrafted free agent from Villanova), Isame Faciane (undrafted free agent from Florida International), Tyler Scott (undrafted free agent from Northwestern), Jake Snyder (undrafted free agent from Virginia)
Position coach: Andre Patterson (first season)
Biggest issue: There might not be any position group on the roster that went through a bigger change this offseason than the defensive line, and after the Vikings spent considerable resources to put together a line that can play coach Mike Zimmer's system, it will be incumbent upon players to execute it. Zimmer wants his linemen to engage blockers first and stay disciplined against the run, which means Robison and Griffen, in particular, will see a change in the way their position is coached. The Vikings' old system often gave defensive ends -- particularly Allen -- the freedom to take an aggressive pass-rushing stance and charge upfield, rather than working off blockers first .Zimmer's ends typically play with a more balanced stance, and don't get to set up in a wide alignment as often as pass-rushers like Allen did in the past. Reconstructing the Vikings' line play might be one of the more important steps in Zimmer's effort to rebuild the defense.
Player to watch: It's an important year for Floyd, who will take on a more significant role at defensive tackle after an underwhelming rookie season. The 23-year-old lost weight over the winter, and will likely play more this season after staying on the field for just 39.6 percent of the Vikings' defensive snaps last season. The Vikings want to see him turn into the kind of three-technique defensive end that Zimmer had in Geno Atkins while he was in Cincinnati, and it's an important year for Floyd to prove he can turn into a key piece of the defensive line.
Medical report: Joseph was limited by shoulder surgery during the Vikings' organized team activities and minicamp, but should be ready for the start of camp. Wootton had hip surgery last winter, and after playing hurt last season in Chicago, he believes he will have more pass-rushing productivity now that he has regained some of his explosiveness.
Help wanted: There is some reason to be concerned with the interior line depth, but they have a solid group of ends and will get some flexibility from a few players that can work inside or outside, like Griffen, Wootton and Crichton. As common as injuries are on the defensive line, though, the Vikings are likely always on the lookout for another body (as they were when they tried to bring Williams back this spring).
Quotable: "That group, I think, is a good group," defensive coordinator George Edwards said. "There was a lot of holes there when we first came in here. We’ve added some new players to that position. One thing you always like to see is guys working together and trying to help each other, and you see that group right now coaching each other when we’re not around, helping each other, trying to talk about pointers, trying to talk about the message that we’re trying to get accomplished, what we’re trying to do schematically, defensively the fundamentals and techniques of it."