Vikings coaches had already planned for defensive end Ifeadi Odenigbo to do more this season, but his starting job was solidified earlier this month when Everson Griffen chose to sign with the Cowboys.
Odenigbo, who had seven sacks off the bench in 2019, said he’s ready to meet raised expectations, in part because he’s focused on conditioning to keep up with the shoes he is filling. Stepping into Griffen’s starting job, which led to 77.8% of snaps last season, is a big leap after Odenigbo played 33.5% in his first, productive stint as an NFL contributor.
“I’m running faster. I figure I’m moving a lot quicker,” Odenigbo said Sunday via videoconference. “I’m a starter now, more is expected from me. So, I owe to the team and to everybody to make sure I’m playing at a high level.”
Odenigbo said he spent six to seven weeks training in Atlanta “because of the heat and the humidity,” refining his footwork and endurance. Odenigbo said a benefit of the virtual offseason was being allowed to keep his team-issued iPad. He spent time this summer studying his Week 1 opponent, Packers All-Pro left tackle David Bakhtiari, and critiqued his own play.
“Just to make sure you have a game plan,” Odenigbo said, “and don’t deviate from your game plan.”
The next step for coach Mike Zimmer is testing Odenigbo’s endurance as much as practices allow, while hoping reserves in Jalyn Holmes and Eddie Yarbrough develop into new contributors off the bench.
“The biggest thing is just, as we get going here through the rest of training camp, that we can simulate those kinds of situations where he’s getting a multiple number of plays,” Zimmer said. “Honestly, we want to try and rotate our guys all the time, anyway.”
Hunter still sidelined
Danielle Hunter is “getting a little better every day,” Zimmer said Sunday, but the star defensive end was still unable to participate in a seventh straight practice. Without defensive end Jalyn Holmes, who was taking first-team reps for Hunter but was absent Sunday because of a presumptive positive COVID-19 test, Eddie Yarbrough filled in with the starting defense.
Linebacker Anthony Barr did not practice for an undisclosed reason. Linebacker Eric Kendricks was among the eight quarantined players, so Sunday’s first-team linebackers were Eric Wilson, rookie Troy Dye and a combination of rookies Blake Lynch and Jordan Fehr.
Cornerback Kris Boyd returned to practice after being held out Friday.
A plus for Dozier
Should Dakota Dozier be named the Vikings’ starting left guard, his past experience as a center — where he made his NFL debut for the Jets in 2015 — could help guide second-year center Garrett Bradbury. Bradbury, who said he spent the offseason trying to get “bigger, faster, and stronger,” may have a former center on both sides in Dozier and right guard Pat Elflein.
“He knows what I’m looking for,” Bradbury said. “The same thing with Pat. You all want to be on the same page on every play. It definitely helps, having him in there.”
No worries for Gladney
First-round cornerback Jeff Gladney said his surgically repaired knee, which has him being monitored by the Vikings training staff in practices, is doing “good right now.” Gladney underwent surgery March 12 to repair a torn meniscus, and the knee “flared up” early in camp, according to Zimmer. Still, Gladney was optimistic about learning two roles — outside and slot corner — in a truncated offseason while preparing to play his first NFL game against Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
“That’s what you live for as a corner,” Gladney said. “It’ll be fun.”