A Rookie Enjoys Brian Flores’ Defense

Minnesota Vikings Defensive Coordinator Brian Flores addressed the media from the TCO Performance Center. Flores was hired in February 2023 to take over for Ed Donatel after Minnesota finished 30th in points allowed.

The Vikings’ defense left a lot to be desired in 2022. Only the Detroit Lions allowed more yards and just a couple of teams allowed more points. Mac Jones and Mike White looked like Tom Brady against the defense coordinated by Ed Donatell and the playoff contest helped Daniel Jones earn $40 million a year. Minnesota had to act. Donatell is gone and was replaced by Brian Flores.

A Rookie Enjoys Brian Flores’ Defense

Flores, a former NFL head coach who turned around the Dolphins organization and its defense, is the polar opposite of Donatell. Instead of sitting back and hoping for mistakes, he wants to put pressure on the offense and force those mistakes. Of course, that is not guaranteed to work and involves some more risk but the old approach clearly didn’t work.

A Rookie Enjoys Brian Flores' Defense
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The players are excited about the new method. Andrew Booth, Harrison Smith, and countless other players praised Flores and his idea. The latest one was rookie Mekhi Blackmon who was handpicked by Flores as a fit for his defense.

During OTAs, the cornerback was asked how Flores’ approach fits his skillset: “(It is) aggressive, he puts pressure on the quarterback and he has people covering by themselves. That’s kind of what I did in college.”

And Blackmon played incredibly in college. The grades and statistics from his last season at USC are off the charts. According to Pro Football Focus, he had 534 coverage snaps and was targeted 63 times, allowing only 30 receptions. 286 yards and 1 touchdown allowed and 3 interceptions led to a ridiculous passer rating allowed of 46.1.

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Blackmon was graded by PFF as a top-5 cornerback in the nation in both man and zone coverage and was the second-best player in coverage in general, only trailing Seahawks fifth-overall pick Devon Witherspoon.

The feisty defender was primarily available in the third round, and many thought he should’ve gone off the board even later, because of his size, as he is only 5’11 and 178 pounds but his skill set is intriguing.

The hallmark of Blackmon’s game is his coverage ability, specifically in press-man. While undersized, Blackmon is an incredibly physical and aggressive corner who is not afraid to fight above his weight class. His physicality brings loads of penalty flags with it, but Blackmon is rarely beat for splash plays and demonstrates high-level ball skills.

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Blackmon enters a Vikings’ defensive back room in a transition period after the departure of Patrick Peterson, Cameron Dantzler, Duke Shelley, and Chandon Sullivan. Byron Murphy, the expensive free agency signing, will claim one starting job but the second one is up for grabs.

Load the Box: Position Battles
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Candidates besides Blackmon are last year’s rookies Andrew Booth and Akayleb Evans who have struggled with injuries in their debut season. Evans showed promise in his few games and Booth is looking better physically in OTAs compared to last year, according to his teammate K.J. Osborn. Surprisingly, veteran Joejuan Williams is also in the mix.

In addition to that, Blackmon has gotten some run in the slot. The position of the inside cornerback is vacant. He also stated that he is learning other positions in case the team needs him to play there. Fellow rookie Jay Ward could be a contender for that spot. He played all over the field at LSU.

Janik Eckardt is a football fan who likes numbers and stats. The Vikings became his favorite team despite their quarterback at the time, Christian Ponder. He is a walking soccer encyclopedia, loves watching sitcoms, and Classic rock is his music genre of choice. Follow him on Twitter if you like the Vikings: @JanikEckardt