The Vikings Strengthened Their Core By Investing In the Edge

Photo Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Peer through the wickets at TCO Performance Center in Eagan, if you dare, and most of what you’ll see is monotonous. Occasionally, Justin Jefferson will make a ridiculous catch. But you’ll also see J.J. McCarthy working on his footwork with Josh McCown or undrafted corner Dwight McGlothern learning the intricacies of jamming receivers at the line with Byron Murphy.

Football is a game of inches, and players must focus on the details to be productive on Sundays. Still, the most interesting thing you may see at practice is a group of players rolling on their backs. They’re not pretending to be injured to avoid doing the same drill for the umpteenth time. Instead, they’re doing ab workouts to strengthen their core.

“The abs thing, that’s the thing I kind of brought from Houston,” said Jonathan Greenard, who the Minnesota Vikings signed in the offseason, at OTAs on Wednesday. “Just when I kind of got into a routine a little bit, and I think everybody’s kind of drawn towards that because they see the benefits from it.”

In the offseason, the Vikings inked Greenard to a four-year, $76 million deal ($42 million guaranteed). At 27, he’s in his prime and one of the veteran leaders on an overhauled defense. Minnesota added Dallas Turner in the draft and Greenard, Andrew Van Ginkel, and Blake Cashman in free agency. With better talent, Brian Flores should build off his success last year.

The new ab workouts are evidence of Greenard’s leadership.

“When we first started doing this ab thing, we probably had two people out here,” said Greenard. “Now, you see, we got the DBs out here and the D-line – everybody’s doing it. I think that just brought us so much closer. After this, when we get through grinding, having these tough days out here, it’s going to continue to carry on during camp when it gets to those hot temperatures.

“That’s huge for us, just to be able to know each other like the back of your hand and understand what buttons you can press by just building that camaraderie and understanding what you want out of teammates.”

Greenard spent his first four years with the Houston Texans and picked up the ab workout while playing there. He doesn’t remember who started the workouts, but they became an essential part of his routine. Working on their core can build strength and avoid injuries, and the workout is practical. It doesn’t take much time, and players can do it almost anywhere.

“You’ve got to go to meetings, so why not get a little 10-minute ab? Just knock it out,” said Greenard. “At the end of the day, the core is everything.

“I’ve had a lot of core injuries in the past and dealt with that. As we know, [if] you keep…the core strong, everything else is going to be better. Injuries go down, so that’s something to be a firm believer in, in doing core.”

Perhaps it’s fitting that Greenard brought the ab workout to Minnesota. Edge rushers are core to the defense. Great teams have a quarterback who can orchestrate the offense and edge rushers who can disrupt the opponent’s signal-caller. The Vikings drafted McCarthy to be their franchise quarterback and Turner to get into the opponents’ backfield. Greenard should be able to get to the passer, as should Van Ginkel.

“As a rusher, the mindset is either get the sack or be disruptive,” said Greenard. “Everybody wants the sack, so you’re going to rush every time to get the sack. But, as we know, they get paid on the other side, too. Those are 300 lb. men who have families to feed, just like we do, too. So, you have to counter those things.

“So, if you’re not getting there, if you’re being disruptive, I think that does a lot for the quarterback. A quarterback, whether he gets his timing messed up, he might sway a little bit in the pocket, get his feet stepped on. They hate that. So, getting a hand hit, whatever the case may be, make it [as] crowded as possible in that pocket.”

Greenard is 6’3”, 263 lbs., and feels like a prototypical Flores player. He can line up on the edge or at linebacker and is comfortable playing in a 4-3 or 3-4 defense. Greenard said that he’s had extensive discussions with Flores about his role and defense in general.

“At the end of the day, it’s still ball,” said Greenard. “I mean, I’ve been in 3-4s, I’ve been in 4-3s all the time.

“So I’ve kind of just, like I said before, it’s just different terminology, meaning the same thing. Just getting on that same page of understanding what he wants, how I want to execute it, how he wants me to bring whatever I brought. Things I can incorporate here.”

Greenard feels he can be productive wherever he lines up and with anyone who lines up next to him. He has already spent time in Flores’ office and building relationships with teammates. Greenard has been in the league long enough to get the basics down. He knows how to get after the quarterback and has the core strength to bully opposing offensive linemen on the way there.

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