1 Man Has Already Won over the Vikings Fans

Minnesota Vikings fans celebrate their win. The New York Giants lose to the Minnesota Vikings, 28-10, in NFL Week 5 on Sunday, Oct. 6, 2019, in East Rutherford. © Danielle Parhizkaran/NorthJersey.com, North Jersey Record via Imagn Content Services, LLC.

The preseason is over, and the Vikings are still winless. But the good news is that the standings reset to 0-0 when Week 1 comes around, and the purple team faces the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The next thing on the agenda for the coaches and front office is the cutdown day. From a football perspective, trimming the roster down to 53 players is a strenuous exercise because some players’ dreams get shattered.

1 Man Has Already Won over the Vikings Fans

A big topic in the upcoming season will be the defense and whether the unit improves enough to put the Vikings into a contending status after holding the team back in the 2022 season. The playoff game was hard to watch because Daniel Jones and the suspect weapons of the New York Giants marched up and down the field just like offenses did all year.

1 Man Has Already Won Over the Vikings Fans
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.

Fans craved more aggressiveness because defensive coordinator Ed Donatell’s approach was to sit back and let offenses run over them. That’s why the decision-makers took action, fired Donatell, and hired Brian Flores.

And guess what, he embodies that aggressiveness like few others. He showed a glimpse of that during the preseason meeting with the Cardinals when he sent Jay Ward on a safety blitz, something fans should get accustomed to seeing.

What makes this even more fun is the fact that Flores delegated play-calling duties to his assistants Daronte Jones (defensive pass-game coordinator) and Mike Siravo (inside LBs coach). Still, Flores was likely heavily involved in the game plan, and his fingerprints were all over that one play. The playbook in the preseason is usually vanilla, and the team didn’t blitz nearly as much as expected in the regular season.

Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

The Athletic’s Alec Lewis tweeted: “Brian Flores hasn’t showed much in these preseason game, but he just brought Jay Ward who clocked Clayton Tune and forced a fumble. Unblocked pass rushers. Get used to that.”

Gabe Henderson from the Vikings Entertainment Network opined: “I think we’ve just seen a glimpse of what this Brian Flores led Vikings defense will be this year!”

Flores has the personnel for that type of defense. Safety Harrison Smith is one of the elite blitzers in the game because he is elite at disguising his coverage, and no other than Bill Belichick and Aaron Rodgers called him the best disguiser in the league.

In addition, Flores can send his linebackers to the quarterbacks, and Ivan Pace, the undrafted rookie, was one of the elite pass-rushers in college football in that exact role. Jordan Hicks is a solid pass-rusher as well.

The 2022 Vikings blitzed the quarterback on 18.9% of his dropbacks, the ninth lowest in the NFL, while Flores’ 2021 Dolphins sent extra pressure on 39.6%, the second most in the league. Even the Miami defense in his first season with suspect personnel, probably even worse than current Vikings, blitzed on 31.6%, the 14th most that year.

Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores talks with defensive players Jerome Baker (55), Kamu Grugier-Hill (51), Brandon Jones (29) and Bobby McCain (28) at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, November 15, 2020. (ALLEN EYESTONE / THE PALM BEACH POST)

Flores was a longtime Patriots linebackers coach, and that role earned him the head coaching job in Miami, where he turned around the organization in only three years from a laughing stock to a franchise with two straight winning seasons for the first time in nearly two decades. The Dolphins still fired him, and he was available and joined the staff of Mike Tomlin in Pittsburgh for one season before taking over Minnesota’s struggling defense.

His personnel is once again suspect, but he had to deal with the same problem in Miami, where he helped form a decent defense with arguably worse players on the defensive side. The development of Akayleb Evans and Mekhi Blackmon in the starting secondary will be important. Both defenders are unproven, and it is on Flores to hide his young players.

It remains to be seen how aggressive the Vikes ultimately are, but Ward’s blitz was the first sign of what fans might get to see regularly.

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