The Vikings added a trio of defensive ends this offseason. And while they all took much different paths to Minnesota, they have one thing in common.
The Vikings drafted 6-foot-5 defensive end Danielle Hunter in the third round and coach Mike Zimmer has been trying to get the 20-year-old, who was born in Jamaica, to put his 35-inch arms to better use.
The Vikings also signed 6-foot-5 Arena Football League alum Leon Mackey and 6-foot-7 defensive end Caesar Rayford, a true journeyman who has played for nine different teams from four leagues since 2008.
Those three guys, with their taller frames and long arms, fit the mold of the kind of defensive ends Zimmer had in Cincinnati, such as Michael Johnson, whom the Vikings flirted with this offseason, and Carlos Dunlap.
Although starters Everson Griffen and Brian Robison are both 6-foot-3 and backup Scott Crichton is, too, longer ends are what they’re looking for.
“As with everything, there are exceptions, but the big thing with length is that you’re going to get more separation, which is going to create more space for you, whether it’s pass-rushing or block protection in the run game,” defensive coordinator George Edwards said. “You’re going to be able to shed, get off blocks and make plays.”
Hunter, the youngest player on the roster, isn’t expected to contribute much as a rookie, but he’s going to be on the team. Mackey and Rayford, who are running with the third-stringers, must play their way onto the roster. The Vikings have seven defensive ends in camp right now.
“It will sort itself out,” Edwards said. “We brought in guys that are going to compete and that’s what we want, competition at each position. But the big thing is we got guys in here that fit the mold of what we’re looking for.”