The Vikings defense is back together and getting healthy — especially at the line of scrimmage.
On Tuesday, nose tackle Linval Joseph returned to practice after an offseason shoulder injury. Earlier this camp, defensive tackle Shamar Stephen returned to the Vikings this year after a one-year stint with the Seahawks.
That means almost every piece of the Vikings starting defense is healthy as the Sept. 8 season opener against the Falcons draws closer.
“We’re excited, getting those guys back and getting them to work,” defensive coordinator George Edwards said. “Just look for them to keep getting better throughout the rest of our time here in the preseason.”
The two are a welcome sight back for a Vikings defense looking to get back to its 2017 level, when they were the league’s top defense.
“When you look at us last year, we gave up a lot of big plays,” Edwards said. “Especially [in the] earlier part of the season. We need to focus on those things, focus on the fundamentals.”
On the injury front, wide receiver Olabisi Johnson returned after missing practice Tuesday. Offensive tackle Brian O’Neill was still limited. Offensive tackle Aviante Collins, defensive end Ade Aruna and wide receiver Jeff Badet were held out of practice.
Stopping the No. 1 pick
While Saturday’s preseason game means little, it will give the Vikings a chance to go up against the Cardinals and this year’s No. 1 overall draft pick, quarterback Kyler Murray.
Murray, the Heisman Trophy winner at Oklahoma, brings a varied skill set. Between his arm talent and scrambling abilities, it will be a perfect chance for the Vikings defense to play against a dual-threat quarterback.
“We’ve got to be good in our rush plan this week to make sure he’s not scrambling a bunch,” Edwards said. “Also with coverage underneath. We always say pass rush and coverage go hand in hand, so we got to do a great job in both departments to keep him bottled up.”
Inside and outside
Ifeadi Odenigbo has bounced around during his tenure with the Vikings since re-signing with the team last year. Edwards said they started him off at defensive tackle, then switched him to defensive end.
While he stayed on the line, the differences between the positions were tough for him at the beginning, Edwards said. But he’s embraced the role and adaptability of playing multiple positions, wherever the team needs him.
“From where he’s started and where he is now, it’s like night and day,” Edwards said. “Now he’s kind of relaxed, being able to have that position flex to move from inside to outside, outside to inside and situational defenses that we put him in.”
McDermott puts a bow on it
Former Vikings long snapper Kevin McDermott said farewell on his Twitter account (@kmcd47) by writing, “my focus now shifts to elbow surgery, rehabilitation and returning to the field. … With every bone in my body (minus a bit of pinkie finger) I want to thank each Vikings employee and fan.”
McDermott, 29, lost the tip of a pinkie when it was caught in the helmet of a Rams player during a game in Los Angeles last season. He was cut after the first preseason game in favor of rookie long snapper Austin Cutting after playing 64 regular-season games for the Vikings.
With questions swirling around who the Vikings will choose for kicker, punter and holder, Dan Bailey was perfect Wednesday.
The kicker went 6-for-6 on field-goal attempts, with his longest from 50 yards. Matt Wile and Chad Beebe held for three attempts each.