Last Monday night, it was nickel defenders Eric Kendricks, the rookie linebacker, and cornerback Captain Munnerlyn who spent a lot of time standing on the sideline. Yesterday, it was a pair of starting base defenders.
Offensively, the Lions are more willing than the 49ers to spread out their opponents with three or more receivers. Plus, the Lions trailed by two scores for most of the game yesterday, so game flow dictated that they pass.
As a result, Munnerlyn, the Vikings’ third cornerback, played 65 of the 78 defensive snaps yesterday. Against the 49ers, he played just 15 of 73.
Kendricks, who played just 10 snaps in his NFL debut, got 53 snaps as the nickel linebacker next to Anthony Barr in the 26-16 victory over the Lions.
Gerald Hodges and Chad Greenway, meanwhile, saw their snap counts dramatically reduced yesterday due to the Lions’ personnel. Hodges, the starting middle linebacker, played 28 snaps. Greenway, who has a $3.4 million base salary, played only 14 as the base weak-side ‘backer.
Another player who spent more time on the sideline was nose tackle Linval Joseph, whose snap count dropped from 49 to 35 yesterday as pass-rushing defensive tackle Tom Johnson played 45 snaps in the win.
Here are some other observations after seeing the official snap counts:
— Top pick Trae Waynes still has yet to play a defensive snap through his first two NFL games. The rookie cornerback played 11 on special teams.
— After getting benched against the 49ers, Andrew Sendejo started against the Lions and was one of four players who played all 78 defensive snaps. The other three were fellow defensive backs Harrison Smith, Xavier Rhodes and Terence Newman. Safety Robert Blanton only played on special teams.
— The Vikings kept running back Adrian Peterson busy. He played 52 of the 65 offensive snaps (and rushed for 134 yards on 29 carries). Jerick McKinnon played nine snaps and Matt Asiata got four. Fullback Zach Line was a little busier, getting 14 snaps and scoring his first NFL touchdown.
— Even though the Vikings had more than twice as many runs (42) as pass attempts (18), they still spent a lot of the game in three-receiver sets. Charles Johnson led the wide receivers with 60 snaps, followed by Mike Wallace (55), Jarius Wright (46) and Thielen (one). Tight end Kyle Rudolph, who yesterday scored his first touchdown of the season, played 55 of the 65 offensive snaps. Rhett Ellison played 21 and rookie tight end MyCole Pruitt got four.
— Right defensive end Everson Griffen rarely left the field, playing 74 snaps. Left end Brian Robison was busy, too, playing 64. That left little work for the other two active defensive ends. Scott Crichton played 13 snaps. And Justin Trattou, activated over third-round pick Danielle Hunter, played just six, though he made the most of them with his first career interception.
— Seventh-round pick Austin Shepherd officially made his NFL debut, playing four snaps in the team’s heavy goal-line package. The five starting offensive linemen, meanwhile, played every snap, as did Teddy Bridgewater.