Horrible Harry Is Excited.
Unless the Minnesota Vikings want to reach the very bottom of the NFL’s basement, the only place to go up is regarding the team’s defense in 2023.
Under Ed Donatell, who departed the organization four days after the Vikings lost in the postseason to the New York Giants six months ago, Minnesota ranked 30th in points allowed and 31st in yards allowed. Not ideal.
Horrible Harry Is Excited.
The club later hired Brian Flores to cleanse the sins of 2022, promising to showcase an aggressive and blitz-happy setup in 2023.
And one Viking is excited about the new look — defensive tackle Harrison Phillips.
Phillips joined the Vikings last year via free agency, signing a three-year, $19.5 million deal in March 2022. He played all 17 games in his first year with Minnesota, tabulating 59 total tackles, 6 QB hits, 3 tackles for loss, and 1.5 sacks — en route to a marvelous 72.1 Pro Football Focus grade.
Now, the man nicknamed Horrible Harry is explaining his excitement about the 2023 defense under the newcomer Flores. Phillips joined SiriusXM Radio recently and said, “I loved the way that Donatell talked about partnerships and connections and some of the things that we did. It was a fun season last year. But moving into this year, man, the offseason program has been really good.”
Minnesota had an odd tendency in 2022 to struggle on defense in Quarters 1-3, but when the game was on the line in the 4th Quarter, the group magically stiffened and helped close out football games. Well, the tactic worked until the playoffs — then it flopped.
“There’s guys flying around, guys excited about the different packages and different personnel and the versatility that we have as a defense right now,” Phillips concluded about the 2023 defense’s outlook.
And the elements of versatility and aggression have been an offseason theme for the Vikings defense, at least in theory and on paper. In June, defensive backs coach Daronte Jones opined, “It’ll probably be similar to Zim in terms of that same aggression and mindset. We want to affect the quarterback and dictate.”
Flores served as the Miami Dolphins head coach from 2019 to 2021, and that defense was known for the items mentioned by Phillips. To be blunt, the Vikings swung the pendulum when they hired Flores, disregarding the bend-don’t-break mantra exalted by Donatell and getting in bed with a blitz-always mentality in Flores.
Even if Minnesota’s defense isn’t gangbusters in Year One under Flores, it will feel and look markedly different.
The Vikings also ranked 27th in defensive DVOA last year, making their 13-4 record all the more unbelievable.
Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sal Spice. His Vikings obsession dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ Basset Hounds, and The Doors (the band).