This is already a time of change for 25 drafted and undrafted rookies on the Vikings roster, some adjustments we can all understand: new job, new bosses and a new city.
A select few are being told to make more changes.
Two rookies, Jalyn Holmes and Hercules Mata’afa, also began playing new positions over the weekend during a three-day rookie minicamp. During the draft process, the Vikings pinpointed Holmes — a fourth-round defensive end from Ohio State — as a candidate to play defensive tackle.
Holmes played there some at Ohio State, for “a couple games,” but he didn’t think it was his NFL future until this spring.
“Not until they brought it up to me during the draft process,” Holmes said Friday after his first Vikings walkthrough. “I’m up for the challenge and got good coaches that are actually teaching me what to do, so I’m up for the challenge.”
He looks the part. If Holmes made last year’s active roster, he’d be the tallest defensive tackle at 6-5 (Linval Joseph is listed 6-4). He’ll need to add a little weight to play inside full-time. Currently at 285 pounds, he said he wants to add at least five.
Holmes is starting with the basics under a respected position coach in Andre Patterson, who has overseen the ascension of the Vikings defensive line.
“He was a little bit of a pet cat all along,” head coach Mike Zimmer said of Holmes. “We watched him early at Ohio State, played a bunch of different positions there. He’s got great size, great length, athletic ability. You know we still think he’s got a lot of raw, untapped potential. This is a guy that Andre has done, not only a lot of work on, but guys like him are guys he’s really made succeed in this league.”
Mata’afa is a different example. The former Washington State star and Hawaiian was one of the power five’s smallest defensive tackles, yet the most disruptive. Now the Vikings are asking Mata’afa to play linebacker after making him a leading name in their 17 undrafted signings.
“He led the NCAA in [forcing] negative plays the last two years,” Zimmer said. “There have been several guys who have gone from d-line to linebacker. [Teddy] Bruschi is a great example. I’m not saying he’s Bruschi, but guys have done that in the past. It’ll take time.”
Mata’afa (6-2, 254 pounds) is starting off at the ‘Sam’ position, currently led by Anthony Barr.
“I feel like I’m an explosive player,” Mata’afa said Friday. “When I get out there, show the coaches what I can do, it’s not going to be a question that I can play.”
To start, Mata’afa’s biggest change will be standing. After years of starting play with his hand in the dirt, he’ll be asked to play with a broader vision and chase running backs and tight ends instead of centers and guards.
“It’ll be an adjustment, but those Cougars are pretty tough,” said Zimmer, the former Washington State coordinator from 1989-93.