The Minnesota Vikings season opener at Cincinnati is 97 days away. Fans are excited to watch this team again. Even being at training camp will be more exciting than usual given how last season unfolded.
From 2010-2019 that number 97 was worn by defensive end Everson Griffen, but now it belongs to defensive tackle Michael Pierce, who the Vikings signed last year to a three-year/$27 million deal after he previously spent four seasons with the Baltimore Ravens. He however opted out last season due to the pandemic given his problems with asthma- a very smart decision by him by the way.
As smart as Pierce’s choice was, his team certainly missed him. The Vikings defense ranked 27th overall in the league last season, and their 29.7 points per game allowed was 29th. Pierce’s biggest strength is stopping the run, another area the defense struggled in as they allowed 134.4 yards per game (27th).
Lack of depth and injuries really hurt this defense. Pierce’s return will be a big boost to this team, and so will Danielle Hunter (barring a holdout) and Anthony Barr. Minnesota also signed Dalvin Tomlinson, Patrick Peterson, Mackensie Alexander, Xavier Woods and Bashaud Breeland. They can still add more pieces too.
This defense should be drastically improved from last season, with Pierce’s return being part of the reason why. He will not only help stop the run, but his presence alone will open things up for other defenders.
Pierce has not played a game yet for the purple (Vikings purple that is), but he is pumped to be practicing with his teammates, whom he really missed last season.
“It also just gave me some time to see how much I love the game,” Pierce said. “Most vets normally tell you they don’t look forward to camp, but I missed practice and just missed the camaraderie and friendship, all those things you hear retired guys talking about. I felt that early. For me, it will make this season and the coming seasons that much more special.”
Mike Zimmer is a defensive-minded coach, so he especially is really looking forward to seeing his defense returning to form.
Should defense stay mostly healthy, they have a great shot at being ranked top-10, perhaps even top-five. This Vikings team has a chance to be great this season.