Ed Donatell Fails First Test

Ed Donatell Fails First Test
Sep 14, 2020; Denver, Colorado, USA; Denver Broncos defensive coordinator Ed Donatell, Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports,

The Minnesota Vikings moved on from former head coach Mike Zimmer following a less than impressive 2021 season. His calling card was the ability to coach a defense and present a strong unit. Former Denver Broncos defensive coordinator Ed Donatell took over Minnesota’s defensive unit this year and came up short on a big stage.

It’s fair to praise the Vikings for what they did in Week 1 against the Green Bay Packers, but realistically speaking, it was this matchup against the Philadelphia Eagles that presented their first test. Not only was Aaron Rodgers without any sort of real wide receiver threat, but Minnesota got that contest in front of a raucous crowd at U.S. Bank Stadium.

The Vikings 2022 Defense by the Numbers: After Week 1
Ed Donatell

With the Vikings questionable secondary facing a group led by A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith, it was going to be this tilt against Jalen Hurts that really showed us where things were at. From the jump, Philadelphia had its way with the Vikings. Run plays up the middle were wide open for big games. Corners were generally multiple yards off of their assignments, leading to easy completions, and the talented dual-threat quarterback in Hurts was rarely pressured. It was as though the Eagles could have their way with Minnesota.

Early in this contest, safety Cam Bynum, starting ahead of first-round pick Lewis Cine, was torched for a deep touchdown when he failed to keep the play in front of him. Cam Dantzler had a few nice bits of coverage, but far too often, it felt like the Vikings were giving up space to Eagles receivers rather than challenging them. By the end of the game, star safety Harrison Smith was back in the locker room being checked for a possible concussion.

The Vikings were nearly doubled up on yardage, being outgained 486 yards to just 264. They allowed Hurts to throw for a whopping 333 yards, with the running game tallying another 163 on the ground. Whatever Nick Sirianni’s team wanted to do on Monday night, they found a way to make it look easy.

Jul 28, 2021; Englewood, CO, United States; Denver Broncos defensive coordinator Ed Donatell. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Although the Lions aren’t the traditional doormat of old, that should be a game Minnesota can use as a get-right opportunity. De’Andre Swift is a very talented runner, but Jared Goff shouldn’t be viewed as a candidate to pick a defense apart. If the Vikings take steps forward this season, they’ll need a defense capable of shutting down the opposition. As much as it’s on everyone to look at what they can do to improve, Donatell will need a much better gameplan if he expects to turn around a Vikings defense that has slumped massively in recent seasons.

The hope was that an improved offensive scheme could help to mask some defensive issues, but the change to a 4-3 scheme also seemed exciting with Za’Darius Smith and Danielle Hunter on the edges. That tandem has to be put in a position to pressure the quarterback, and the secondary needs to look a whole lot better than it did on a national stage against the Philadelphia Eagles.

Former Vikings Safety Joins Packers

Vikings Territory Also Read: Former Vikings Safety Joins Packers

Ted Schwerzler is a blogger from the Twin Cities that is focused on all things Minnesota Twins and Minnesota Vikings. He’s active on Twitter and writes weekly for Twins Daily. As a former college athlete and avid sports fan, covering our pro teams with a passion has always seemed like such a natural outlet