Welcome to the latest installment of the Vikings Territory Training Camp Primer series focusing on Linval JosephSharrif Floyd and the Minnesota Vikings interior defensive linemen.

UPDATE: The Vikings signed DT Chunky Clements Friday and released DE Caleb Kidder.

As the Vikings open their last training camp in Mankato, they appear at-first-glance to be in pretty good shape along the defensive front. They have one of the best defensive tackles in football and employ a stable of talent for depth. However, there are still important questions to be answered. Like for instance, who is the starter next to Linval Joseph?


Player Name2016 NFL TeamCollege AttendedNote
Linval JosephMinnesotaEast Carolina2010 2nd-Round Pick
Sharrif FloydMinnesotaFlorida2013 1st-Round Pick
Shamar StephenMinnesotaConnecticut2014 7th-Round Pick
Tom JohnsonMinnesotaSouthern MississippiUndrafted
Datone JonesGreen BayUCLA2013 1st-Round Pick
Will SuttonChicagoArizona State2014 3rd-Round Pick
Jaleel JohnsonRookieIowa2017 4th-Round Pick
Dylan BradleyRookieSouthern MississippiUndrafted Rookie
Chunky ClementsRookieIllinoisUndrafted Rookie


Joseph has been the anchor of the defensive line since Mike Zimmer took over as Vikings head coach in 2014. That will not change in 2017. What could change, however, is the player starting next to him.

The search for that player leads us to the biggest question mark heading into training camp — the health of Sharrif Floyd. The nerve in Floyd’s right quad is still not healed and he’s expected to begin the 2017 season on the PUP list.

With Floyd’s future uncertain and several players’ contracts up after 2017, the Vikings addressed the position this offseason. Minnesota signed two players that formerly played for NFC North foes; Datone Jones and Will Sutton.

They also drafted rookie Jaleel Johnson and signed two undrafted free agents to add depth to the line, Dylan Bradley and Chunky Clements. Shamar Stephen and Tom Johnson, whose contracts expire after the season, both return after underwhelming 2016 seasons.

Last season, to replace an injured Floyd, the Vikings predominately used a two-man rotation. Stephen stepped in and started all 16 games. Tom Johnson also saw 46% of defense snaps last season as a pass rushing specialist.

This season figures to be similar. Zimmer will deploy a rotation of defensive tackles based on the game situation, but who makes the rotation will be decided in Mankato.


Linval Joseph: Joseph, 28, was selected to his first career Pro Bowl after a tremendous 2016 season. His motor and size (6’4,” 330 pounds) are a nightmare for opposing offensive lineman. His agility and strength allow him to consistently penetrate into the backfield to disrupt run lanes and pass protection, which is why he draws double teams constantly. By doing so, he creates one-one-one matchups for teammates like Everson Griffen, Danielle Hunter and Brian Robison. It also allows Zimmer to be more creative when it comes to bringing pressure.

Datone Jones: Jones played his first four years in Green Bay and collected nine sacks. Despite being a first-round pick in 2013, he was a misfit in the Packers’ 3-4 defense. The Vikings, who run an attacking 4-3 scheme, feel they have a position that Jones will excel in at the three-technique tackle. The 6’4,” 285 pound lineman will have just one season to prove the Vikings are right. Minnesota signed Jones to a one-year, $3.75 million deal this offseason. Considering the depth on the defensive line, Jones will need to show he’s grasped the position well enough in training camp to earn significant playing time.

Jaleel Johnson: The 23-year-old was selected by the Vikings in the fourth round of the draft. He stands 6’3,” 316 pounds. Johnson led Iowa with 7.5 sacks last season. In 47 career games as a Hawkeye, he recorded 112 total tackles (53 solo) with 18 tackles for loss and 13 sacks. Johnson played both the one-technique and three-technique as a Hawkeye. While raw, the rookie possesses impressive pass rushing skills. That ability, combined with his size and positional versatility, will help defensive line coach Andre Patterson mold him into the disruptive force the Vikings are looking for, especially if Floyd is unable to return.


Shamar Stephen: The 2014 seventh-rounder started all 16 games last season, but he did not register a single sack. In fact, he does not have any sacks in his three-year NFL career, and only had five during his college career at UConn. Also working against Stephen is his contract. He earned a $1.15-million raise this year because he hit an escalator that rewards players who played at least 35% of their team’s snaps in two of their first three seasons. Stephen will earn $1.838 million in the last year of his rookie deal. In Mankato, he’ll need to prove his run-stopping abilities are worth the team keeping him and paying him that 2017 salary. The dead cap hit would be $16K if the Vikings cut Stephen.

Tom Johnson: Johnson will be 33 years old when the season starts. Despite his age, he is still an effective pass rusher. He has 14 sacks in three years with the Vikings. PFF even listed him as the one of the NFL’s most improved defenders of 2016. His contract, however, could make him a cap casualty. Johnson is due to make $2.35 million in 2017. If the Vikings cut him there is no dead cap hit. At training camp, he’ll need to fend off newcomers Jones and Jaleel Johnson in order to secure his role with the team.

Will Sutton: Sutton was another offseason addition that began his career with a divisional opponent. Like Jones, he didn’t fit well in his previous scheme. Sutton’s natural position is nose tackle or run-stuffing three-techique, so the Vikings believe he’ll be more compatible in a 4-3. He played three years in Chicago before being released. The former third-round pick is 6’1,” 290 pounds. He’s 25 years old. His contract is worth $690K in 2017.

Sharrif Floyd: The former first-rounder is in a tough situation. Despite the Vikings picking up his $6.75 million option for 2017, there’s still no timetable for his return. Unfortunately, the nerve issue remains career-threatening. When (and if) Floyd becomes healthy, he and Joseph form one of the most formidable defensive tackle duos in the NFL. However, if there’s virtually no chance he’ll ever return to the NFL, there’s no reason to keep him on the roster.

Dylan Bradley: At 6’1,” 265 pounds, Bradley will fight for a roster spot and may make his way to the practice squad if the coaches deem him worthy.

Chunky Clements: His real name is Jarrod, but c’mon; Chunky is so much better. Clements is 6’2,” 295 pounds. He had a solid career at Illinois. In 46 games he registered 99 tackles, including 25.5 tackles for loss, six sacks, and four forced fumbles.


DT: Datone Jones v. Jaleel Johnson v. Tom Johnson v. Shamar Stephen

The most interesting battle to watch in training camp is the starting defensive tackle position next to Joseph. Stephen is the incumbent, but his sub-par play in 2016 and lack of pass rushing ability leave the position up for grabs. Tom Johnson is the most likely recipient of more playing time since the veteran showed improvement in the run game last season. However, he’s not a three-down tackle.

Jaleel Johnson is the most intriguing option, as he could make both Jones and Johnson expendable if he proves to be a capable pass-rushing force on the interior of the defensive line. He’s also the only player aside from Linval Joseph that’s under contract after the season.

Jones may be best-suited to handle the role based off his skillset, but can he learn the position quick enough to make a strong impact in training camp?

Several players could potentially earn the role. However, like last season, the position will likely be addressed with a rotation. That is, until there’s an update on Floyd.


PositionNo. 1 (Starter)No. 2 (Backup)No. 3 (Rotational)Depth/Practice Squad
Left Defensive TackleDatone JonesTom JohnsonJaleel JohnsonSharrif Floyd (IR/PUP)
Right Defensive TackleLinval JosephShamar StephenChunky Clements (PS)



Running Backs

Wide Receivers

Offensive Tackles

Defensive Ends