There’s no debating it: things were ugly on defense this year. Mike Zimmer’s beloved group had long been Minnesota’s strength. Quite the opposite was true in 2020. Perhaps the most important task for Minnesota as they enter the offseason rests in finding a solution. Somewhere on Zimmer Ridge Ranch, Minnesota’s surly coach is losing sleep as he tries to find this elusive, yet extremely important solution. Though easily overlooked, one of the moves the Minnesota Vikings ought to make is to re-sign linebacker Todd Davis. He is part of the solution.
The Fit Between Todd Davis and The Minnesota Vikings
Coming into the season, linebacker was going to be a strength for the Vikings. Unfortunately, the injury bug grew into the injury monster. The Minnesota Vikings’ roster – especially on defense – was thus put in a difficult position.
Davis was being asked to do far more than was reasonable. In an ideal world, Davis would be the team’s #3 or #4 linebacker, one who can come in on early downs as a tough, physical run-first linebacker. The Vikings knew this, but what were they supposed to do? They lost Anthony Barr, Eric Kendricks, Ben Gedeon, and Cameron Smith. Davis was forced to step up and take on responsibility that should have been given to someone else.
Grades are live! The highest graded #Vikings on defense and rank among the NFL (pending MNF) :
Cameron Dantzler 90.7 (3/92)
Hercules Mata'afa 81.2 (7/98)
Todd Davis 79.6 (5/83)
Armon Watts 76.2 (22/120)
— PFF MIN Vikings (@PFF_Vikings) December 21, 2020
I’ve said it before, but it’s worth repeating: the Vikings didn’t really have a lot of bad players, they had a lot of bad roles. Davis performed reasonably well given the role he was placed in. He is actually a really good tackler, one who makes a noticeable difference in run defense.
He ended up playing in eleven games, starting six (he was injured for our Christmas Day shellacking). He finished with 35 tackles, a sack, and two TFLs. Per PFF, Davis was Minnesota’s best linebacker apart from Kendricks. His 70.2 run defense score is impressive considering the linebackers who were playing beside him and the defensive tackles in front of him.
What could Davis do with a fully healthy defense around him? The Vikings would be wise to find out.
The Minnesota Vikings were a disaster on defense, yet Todd Davis deserves a chance to help revive Zimmer’s side of the ball. Next season, Davis should have the benefit of being able to play behind/alongside Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks. Barr and Kendricks can do the heavy lifting; Davis can be a run-first defender.
The Vikings signed Davis to a one-year deal worth less than a million dollars in September. If he will come back on a similar deal, it’s more than worth it for Minnesota. Gedeon is no longer with the team, and it’s hard to know how Smith will respond after his major surgery. Troy Dye, who had a tough rookie year, may improve, but he was drafted because of his ability in pass defense. In all likelihood, Eric Wilson will be wearing a new jersey next season, so Dye and Davis could fill the depth role. Dye is the pass game specialist and Davis the run stopper.
The Vikings will surely be considering all options as they seek to compete in 2021. One of the main things they should do is to solidify their depth. Todd Davis should thus be among the team’s top priorities.
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