Brian Flores Talks about Linebacker Rotation

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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 Minnesota Vikings made big changes in the 2023 offseason, including parting ways with some franchise staples. Dalvin Cook was released and joined the New York Jets, and Adam Thielen will catch passes from first-overall pick Bryce Young. The Vikings also parted ways with linebacker Eric Kendricks, who had been a fixture of the defense since 2015.

Brian Flores Talks about Linebacker Rotation

Brian Flores Talks About Linebacker Rotation
Dec 4, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings linebacker Jordan Hicks (58) reacts after making a stop against the New York Jets during the fourth quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

Without the veteran in the mix, the Vikings had to find a replacement for him to play next to Jordan Hicks. Brian Asamoah is that guy, a 2022 third-round selection out of Oklahoma. The third guy in the room pushing for a role is Ivan Pace, the undrafted rookie.

The defensive coordinator was available for media questions on Thursday, and he was asked about the linebacker group, in particular, those three guys:

Those three have done some good things. Jordan (Hicks) is bringing a lot of leadership, just having the ability to take his experience and give that knowledge and information to the younger players in that room. BA (Brian Asamoah) is a second-year player, [he is] still young, he is still learning, he still needs to go out there and experience the various situations that can come up — third down, red zone, two-minutes.

You play them all a little bit differently. We can have the same call on third down that we have in two minutes and they should be played totally different based on the situation. Jordan brought a lot of that understanding to that room and he’s also playing well. He’s playing fast, he’s playing physical, and the same for Ivan (Pace), the same for BA. It’s a good group, those three but it’s also, (Troy) Dye’s played well, (Troy) Reeder’s played well. I like the group as a whole.

Brian Flores

Of course, Flores used his experience as a head coach to not reveal anything and put his best coach talk on display, but there were still some interesting things said.

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Dec 24, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings linebacker Brian Asamoah II (33) forces a fumble against New York Giants tight end Daniel Bellinger. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

The defensive coordinator talked a lot about Hicks and his veteran presence. That presence is important in the meeting room to help the two young guys learn and also on the field to get the players lined up at the right spots.

The theory started to gain traction that Asamoah and Pace might be the starting linebackers, but Hicks brings leadership to the table that shouldn’t be forgotten. He is also a safer bet as a veteran to avoid mistakes. In addition to that, Hicks is a different type of linebacker. He is bigger and a more traditional LB who is good at the line of scrimmage against the run and on pass-rush but not great in coverage.

That is where Asamoah especially shines, while Pace is a mix of those qualities. Flores certainly sounded like he supported the theory that the three would live in a timeshare, and everyone would get some run in different packages, formations, and situations.

Nov 5, 2022; Cincinnati, Ohio, USA; Cincinnati Bearcats linebacker Ivan Pace Jr. (0) reacts after sacking Navy Midshipmen quarterback Xavier Arline (not pictured) in the second half at Nippert Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports.

In recent history, the Vikings always had two linebackers that received the majority of the snaps, especially with Anthony Barr and Kendricks in the building. It was Kendricks next to Hicks last season. But Flores likes versatile defenses, and if he can rotate three different player types at linebacker, he has the best possible flexibility to call the right play at the right time. That is dependent on the game situation but also the opponents. Some offenses need to be attacked with lighter cover linebackers, and some need run-stoppers.

Vikings fans want to know which one of the trio will be the odd man out and sit on the bench while the other two are starting, but that is irrelevant. Much more important is how they split the snaps, but that will not be released until we can see it in Week 1 and the following weeks. Expect a heavy dose of all three guys.

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