Last year’s version of Minnesota’s defensive line featured a heavy rotation, as expected under the watchful eye of Mike Zimmer, and a starting lineup with mostly new faces.
Outside of left end Brian Robison, the 2014 defensive line featured new starters across the board, including Everson Griffen replacing the ultra-popular Jared Allen as the primary pass rusher. Veteran run-stuffer Linval Joseph was a free agent acquisition while Sharrif Floyd was elevated to starting duties.
Now, with one full year under their belt, each of the starters has returned and they have high expectations for themselves.
Master Tesfatsion of the Star Tribune recently caught up with Floyd and confirmed that they are aiming for big things this year.
“We have to come in week in and week out and own the line of scrimmage,” Floyd told Tesfatsion. “There’s no other way around it. The games we played really well, we dominated the line of scrimmage. If we can do that for 16 games, I think we’ll all be happy.”
In 2014, the Vikings defense was ranked 14th in terms of yards surrendered, 7th in passing yards allowed, 25th in rushing yards allowed, and 11th in points allowed. They were tied for the ninth most sacks in the NFL (41) and the pass rush was, at times, devastating.
Still, consistency was not a strong suit for the unit last season, especially in run defense. A little continuity and maturation together might bring a welcomed level of consistency, as Floyd suggests.
“We know each other, and we know what we can do well,” Floyd said. “We know how to play with each other and off each other. I think that gives us an edge… knowing how to talk to each other.”
The 2015 Vikings schedule features a number of menacing challenges for this unit and on Monday night they will immediately get a big one in the form of mobile quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
As Austin Belisle of VT recently wrote about in-depth, the Vikings defensive line will have their hands full containing Kaepernick, and Griffen confirmed one of their most challenging tasks will be keeping Kaepernick from busting outside of the box.
After this week, however, the line can go back to focusing on stuffing the run and disrupting the pocket in a traditional manner. They are not expected to face another overly-athletic quarterback for quite some time, depending on injuries.