Second-year linebacker Ben Gedeon played a career-high 44 percent of the defensive snaps Sunday in the Vikings’ 24-16 victory over San Francisco. He is starting next to Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks for the second year in a row, but as a rookie Gedeon played only about 25 percent of the time on defense.
A fourth-round pick out of Michigan in 2017, Gedeon knew there was going to be a chance for more playing time this season, and he ran with that in the lead up to the season opener. Against the 49ers, he was one of five players who had four tackles on defense, and he also had a special teams tackle.
“I’ve learned a lot, that experience is super important, and I’m hoping to build on it and get better this year,” said Gedeon, who had three tackles in last December’s 16-0 victory at Green Bay. “Just how to prepare for games, technical stuff, fundamentals and learning from all of the older guys in the position group, as well.”
Gedeon said one of his biggest hurdles coming into the NFL last year was adjusting to the pace of play, especially on pass coverage. That will be a huge challenge this week if Aaron Rodgers plays this week, no matter if his mobility is limited or not.
Gedeon, 23, said that adjustment was a big focus for him over the offseason.
“That is something I was working on pretty hard. Play faster, know the defense better so I’m going to be able to play faster this year,” he said. “I wanted to go in there, work as hard as I could and wherever I could help the team is where I wanted to be.”
Gedeon said linebackers coach Adam Zimmer helped him with another huge learning curve.
“The schemes, everything we do here defensively. It always takes a little bit of time to feel comfortable in the schemes,” Gedeon said. “You can play fast after you learn all the schemes.”
Johnson makes plays
Gophers football coach P.J. Fleck said having junior receiver Tyler Johnson back healthy after he missed the final two games of 2017 is a big boost to the offense.
Late in the 24-17 victory over Fresno State, Johnson made an incredible catch off a throw from Zach Annexstad, who had scrambled all over to pull off the play. It was as good of an offensive play as the team has had in years.
Fleck said that shows how impressive Johnson can be, but he also expects a lot out of one of his offensive leaders.
“I think Ty has got to continue to be more consistent, and he will tell you the same thing, but he makes big-time plays in big-time situations and that’s what great players do,” Fleck said. “We put ourselves in some tough positions with a few drops and a fumble [Johnson’s third-quarter fumble led to Fresno State’s first score]. However he continues to keep his oar in the water and never gave up.”
Johnson ranks fifth in the Big Ten in both receptions per game (5.5) and receiving yards per game (75.0).
Interestingly, Johnson, who averaged 17.2 points as a senior playing basketball for Minneapolis North, said a few close family members helped him to decide on football in college.
“It was actually a tough decision, you know I think I talked to my little brother or my mom or somebody like that and basically it just came down to the opportunity to play at a high level and being the first one in my family to do that,” Johnson said.
Former Bulls succeed
There has been a lot of skepticism around Timberwolves coach Tom Thibodeau because of his decisions to reunite a number of his former Chicago Bulls players in Minnesota, with Luol Deng now joining Jimmy Butler, Taj Gibson and Derrick Rose.
But so far, the former Bulls who have come here have settled into successful roles and more or less showed that Thibodeau was right in his decision to bring them to Minnesota.
With Deng signing a one-year, $2.4 million deal, there is little risk to the contract for the two-time All-Star.
Butler, of course was one of the best players in the NBA last season and made the All-NBA third team.
Gibson’s 12.2 points and 7.1 rebounds per game marked the second-highest totals of his eight-year career.
And Rose was great in the Wolves’ first playoff appearance in 13 years as he averaged 14.2 points and 2.6 assists while shooting 70 percent from three-point range and 50.9 percent from the floor against the Rockets.
Future Hall of Famer Dwyane Wade wrote on Twitter this week that while he doesn’t know Thibodeau closely, he is now a bigger fan of him, “and it’s because of his loyalty. I love that he believes in his guys. The game is played more than one way.”
As long as Thibodeau’s former players continue to earn their minutes, it’s hard to doubt his decision-making.
• Annexstad is averaging 197.5 passing yards per game for the Gophers, ranking fourth in the Big Ten. He is one of only three quarterbacks in the conference to have not thrown an interception this season — the others being Trace McSorley at Penn State and Kasim Hill at Maryland.
• Former Vikings center John Sullivan has come a long way since a knee injury nearly ended his career and led to the Vikings releasing him in 2016. He is in his second season starting for the Los Angeles Rams, who again appear to be one of the strongest teams in the NFC. He signed a two-year, $10.75 million deal this offseason with $5.25 million guaranteed.
• Case Keenum showed why the Broncos signed him over the offseason in completing 25 of 39 passes for 329 yards and three scores in Denver’s 27-24 home victory over Seattle. Keenum did throw three interceptions, something he didn’t do once last season with the Vikings.
• Former Vikings running back Adrian Peterson played his first game with Washington and went against former Vikings quarterback Sam Bradford, who is now with Arizona. The visiting Redskins won 24-6 as Peterson ran 26 times for 96 yards and a score — his 100th career rushing TD — and caught two passes for 70 yards. Bradford finished 20-for-34 for 153 yards and threw an interception. “I have a lot of support that keeps me going and keeps me motivated,” Peterson said afterward. “Not only do I do it for myself and my family, but I do it for my fan base, as well.”
• Cordarrelle Patterson didn’t play a lot in host New England’s 27-20 victory over Houston to open the season, but the former Vikings first-round pick did have one reception for 6 yards, three carries for 13 yards and a kick return for 19 yards.
• Former Twins reliever and Park Center High School product Pat Neshek missed the first three months of the season for Philadelphia, but the 38-year-old righthander has been lights out since rejoining the Phillies on July 1. He has a 1.29 ERA with 14 strikeouts in 21 innings and 25 appearances.