Vikings Use Sizzle to Revamp Defense
The 2020 Minnesota Vikings had a glaring weakness. Their once staunch defense couldn’t stop anything. Alvin Kamara ran for 6 TDs against them on Christmas Day. Mitch Trubisky and the Chicago Bears lead six straight scoring drives against them. For a defensive-minded Head Coach like Mike Zimmer, this was a horrific nightmare come true. This is why the Vikings have made it clear that this will not happen again. While it is a bit curious that they haven’t addressed the offensive line yet, free agency is far from over. Let’s now take a look at what the Vikings have been doing this week.
The Vikings run defense was god-awful. In five of their 16 games, they allowed a single player to cross 100 yds rushing on the day. They allowed 13 of their opponents to have 100 or more rushing yards as a team. This allowed other teams to dominate time of possession and impose their will on the Vikings. 2020 free agent, Micheal Pierce, was sorely missed. The Vikings, however, were not finished. By signing Dalvin Tomlinson this year, they have set out a mission to make sure no team will be able to run on them again. Their defensive tackles now weigh nearly a combined 670 pounds – not easy to move at all. Assuming that Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks are both healthy in 2021, they should be able to play at a high level. With offensive lineman less likely to reach the second level of the defense thanks to Pierce and Tomlinson, Barr and Kendricks will be able to do what they do best and cover the middle of the field. The Vikings should now focus on giving Danielle Hunter whatever money he wants. Hunter is a solid run defender in his own right, and having all these players back on the field, the 2021 Vikings should be much better at preventing teams from doing whatever they want while running the football.
The Vikings made their next splashy move on Wednesday evening. They signed 8-time Pro Bowler Patrick Peterson to a 1-year deal. While he may not be the All-Pro caliber player he was a while back, he is still a solid player and a much-needed veteran presence in an extremely young secondary. Cameron Dantzler and Jeff Gladney were both rookies last season and now get to learn from a cornerback who has played at the highest levels in his career. Additionally, Mike Zimmer is known as a DB-Whisperer, meaning he can keep Peterson playing at a good enough level as he did with Terrence Newman. There are some risks, however, with this move. In the last two seasons, Peterson allowed a passer rating of over 100, and his PFF grade in 2020 was 55.2, 83rd amongst 121 cornerbacks. At 10 million dollars, if his play continues to decline, this could easily be an overpay. For a roster that has no guarantee to be ready to compete for a Superbowl in 2021, any overpaying could hurt the team massively. Zimmer must be banking on the fact that he can get Peterson playing closer to his 2018 form than this past season, and if he can, then this move would do wonders for the defense.
The 2021 Vikings defense, at least, will be completely unrecognizable from the product the Vikings put out in 2020. Players in 2021 who were nowhere to be seen on the field by the end of 2020 include Hunter, Pierce, Tomlinson, Barr, Kendricks, and now Patrick Peterson. These are all extremely talented players and should cause drastic improvements. They are also veteran players who can only help develop the young talent the Vikings recently have drafted. If the defense can even play at an average level, and the Vikings’ offense from last year plays at the same level – especially if they address the offensive line in free agency/draft – we could see this Vikings team make a playoff run in 2021. It’s a bit unrealistic to think that the Vikings are serious contenders right now, but they shouldn’t be that far back. With these moves, the Vikings are putting themselves in the best possible position to win now – whether this works out is remains to be seen.