The Best Vikings Offseason Move Has Been Revealed

Explained: The Interesting State of the Vikings thru 14 Weeks
Oct 2, 2022; London, United Kingdom; Minnesota Vikings fans react in the second half .Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports.

2023 has been a tumultuous offseason for the Minnesota Vikings.

Three longtime Vikings – Eric Kendricks, Adam Thielen, and Dalvin Cook – were released after playing a combined 341 times for the Vikings. General manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah added a bunch of players to replace the departed guys, including potential stars Marcus Davenport and Byron Murphy, and the first-round selection of Jordan Addison was generally viewed as a fantastic choice.

The Best Vikings Offseason Move Has Been Revealed

The Best Vikings Offseason Move Has Been Named
Dec 19, 2021; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores stands on the field prior to the game against the New York Jets at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports.

Despite those roster modifications, a coaching change was named the franchise’s top move in the offseason by CBSSport’s Jeff Kerr. Appointing Brian Flores as the team’s new defensive coordinator following a bad defensive season drew praise.

Hiring Ed Donatell was a mistake by Kevin O’Connell in year one, but the Vikings head coach quickly corrected it by replacing him with Flores after one season. Flores turned the Miami Dolphins’ defense around in two seasons and helped the Pittsburgh Steelers’ defense to top-10 rankings in opponent points per game, opponent rushing yards per game, passes defensed, and interceptions. The Steelers run defense also were tied for the fewest run touchdowns allowed in 2022.

Flores appears to be in Minnesota for a few years, so the Vikings appear bound for a turnaround. The results may not show immediately, but that defense will improve in 2023 and beyond. 

Jeff Kerr, CBSSports

Flores will try to turn around a defense in full transition mode after a disastrous season. Six defensive starters (Patrick Peterson, Duke Shelley, Chandon Sullivan, Eric Kendricks, Dalvin Tomlinson, and Za’Darius Smith) departed from the organization. Some of them were replaced by free-agent signings. The aforementioned Murphy and Davenport will take over a couple of spots. Both are decent players with star potential.

Standout Defensive
Sep 25, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings linebacker Brian Asamoah II (33) in action against the Detroit Lions during the game at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

Second-year player Brian Asamoah is the favorite to be the starting linebacker in place of Kendricks. He played well in limited snaps during his debut season, but it is far from guaranteed that he’ll actually be a good starter. Growing pains should be expected.

A competition will occur in training camp for the remaining two cornerback spots next to Murphy. It will be between veteran Joejuan Williams, rookie Mekhi Blackmon and last year’s rookies Andrew Booth and Akayleb Evans.

It could be a problem to replace Tomlinson on the defensive line. Veteran Harrison Phillips must step up and be the leader on the line, while guys like Khyiris Tonga, Dean Lowry, James Lynch, and rookie Jaquelin Roy need to fill the positions next to him.

Because of the suspect defensive personnel, it will be Flores who must bring the impactful changes. He is the polar opposite of his predecessor, who had a conservative approach that limited big plays but gave up easy yards on basically every play.

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.

Flores’ aggressive approach has been praised ad nauseam, and the players seem to love it. 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. Of course, many blitzes don’t automatically equal a good defense, but it is a first step to making it a more respected unit without sitting back in coverage and letting backup quarterbacks carve up that coverage – something quarterbacks did all year with Donatell’s unit.

Flores loves to bring pressure, and he enjoys versatile defenders. His opponent-specific game plans require defenders who can do different things. Those two things will make it much harder for adversaries to play against the squad.

It is not a given, but it is widely expected that the defense will be better in the upcoming season after giving up the second-most yards and the third-most points in the league, and Flores is the key to that improvement.

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