Shortly before 10 p.m. on April 30, the Vikings selected University of Pittsburgh defensive end Patrick Jones II in the third round of the NFL draft. About 17 hours later, they picked up one of his teammates on the line.
In the sixth round on May 1, Minnesota took Panthers defensive tackle Jaylen Twyman. The two reported Sunday along with other rookies and some select players for training camp, which gets underway Wednesday at the TCO Performance Center.
“What a dream come true,” Pitt assistant head coach and defensive line coach Charlie Partridge said Sunday. “The odds of that are so slim. It doesn’t happen often that players from the same position group get drafted to the same team. It’s pretty awesome. They have a great relationship and a common approach in terms of work ethic. They’re excited. We’re excited. You’ve got a lot of Vikings fans now in Pittsburgh.’’
The players will start camp under different circumstances. Jones could be a candidate to start at right defensive end to replace Ifeadi Odenigbo, now with the New York Giants. Twyman is likely to start camp on the non-football injury list after being shot four times on June 21 while he was in a vehicle in his native Washington D.C.
Twyman’s agent, Drew Rosenhaus, told the Pioneer Press on Friday that Twyman would report to camp on time, and the agent was “hopeful he will be able to play this season and make a full recovery.” Rosenhaus doesn’t know when Twyman might take the field.
Partridge spoke to Twyman shortly after the incident and was given assurance the injuries weren’t serious to the defensive tackle, who was an innocent victim. The shots have been described as having made superficial exit wounds.
“I didn’t get into why the shooting happened,’’ Partridge said. “Jaylen grew up in a tough area. … He saw a lot of things growing up, and you don’t wish that on anybody when they’re young. I’m just glad that he’s OK.”
Partridge saw Jones in Pittsburgh following the June 18 conclusion of Minnesota’s minicamp, and the two talked plenty.
“He shared some of the things he learned about his NFL experience,” Partridge said. “I kind of kept reminding him that what he did last year, he operated like a pro. If he continues to do that, I think he’ll do good things.’’
The 6-foot-4, 262-pound Jones had nine sacks for the Panthers last season. He perhaps will be in the mix to battle to start with Stephen Weatherly, D.J. Wonnum, Jalyn Holmes and Janarius Robinson, a fifth-round pick from Florida State.
“I think he’s got the ability (to start as a rookie),’’ Partridge said. “He’s certainly got the willingness to put in additional time. He needs to weather the storm of learning the playbook. … I love the combination of Pat’s speed and his power.”
Partridge said Jones would have been drafted higher had he not been hampered by a hamstring injury suffered at his pro day.
The 6-2, 293-pound Twyman’s draft status perhaps was hurt by opting out of last year to help provide for his family during the coronavirus pandemic. That followed a season in which Twyman and Jones were twin terrors to opposing quarterbacks.
In 2019, Twyman had a team-high 10½ sacks and Jones had 8½. Prior to that season, Twyman had changed his number from 55 to 97 to honor former Panthers defensive tackle Aaron Donald, now a star with the Los Angeles Rams.
“He and Aaron have a great relationship,’’ Partridge said. “Aaron trains here when not in season. He wanted to honor Aaron and apply that pressure on himself.”
Twyman didn’t buckle under it.
“He’s a tremendous technician,’’ Partridge said. “He loves watching film and perfecting his technique.’’
Whenever he suits up, the Vikings likely will bring Twyman along slowly. They’re in good position in the interior defensive line with Michael Pierce, Dalvin Tomlinson, Sheldon Richardson and Armon Watts.
For now, Jones and Twyman are quite happy to have been reunited in Minnesota. Twyman said after being drafted that “it’s definitely a blessing being able to play with Pat again.’’ Jones echoed that in May during rookie minicamp.
“It’s just amazing,’’ Jones said. “It was like having a partner in crime (in college). We were out there, just doing our thing, going back there every day and just getting after the quarterbacks.’’
Wide receiver Dede Westbrook’s agency announced Sunday that he has signed his contract with Minnesota. The free agent told the Pioneer Press on Saturday that he would sign a one-year deal. When the Vikings turn the contract into the NFL, they will have to make a roster move to create room since they are at the 90-man offseason limit.