6 Reasons to Be Optimistic about 2023 Vikings

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The Minnesota Vikings will open their season on Sunday with a home game, facing the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for the first time since 2020, when Tom Brady led the group. It will be the first contest since the disappointing postseason loss against the Giants, exactly 238 days later. Week 1 is always unpredictable, but the Vikings are favored to win by almost a touchdown.

6 Reasons to Be Optimistic about 2023 Vikings

Coming off a 13-4 season, the Vikings want to repeat that success but add to the win total in the playoffs after going one-and-done last year. And there are some things the fanbase should be excited about.

1. Brian Flores Is Here

A revamped defense was certainly the main priority for the Vikings in the offseason, and that’s what they have attempted to do. Brian Flores is a highly regarded coach in the NFL, as he was the head coach for the Miami Dolphins. His dismissal after the 2021 campaign drew serious pushback, and one year later, the Vikings hired him as their new defensive coordinator.

5 Reasons To Be Optimistic About 2023 Vikings
Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores in Miami Gardens, September 15, 2019. © Allen Eyestone via Imagn Content Services, LLC.

He brings an aggressive style, the polar opposite of last year’s man in charge of the defense, Ed Donatell. Blitzes on every other play and trying to make offenses uncomfortable are what folks should expect. That comes with some risk, but it is a risk the fans will gladly take instead of watching subpar offenses shred the defensive unit apart.

2. Different-Looking Offense

Head coach Kevin O’Connell joined the Vikings last year and implemented an offense that matched the style of his former boss, Sean McVay. Minnesota ran a high frequency of 11 personnel (3 WRs, 1 TE, 1 RB), partly because of the available players.

Baltimore Ravens tight end Josh Oliver (84) spikes the ball after a touchdown score as tight end Mark Andrews (89) looks on and Jacksonville Jaguars safety Andre Cisco (5) is slow to get up after an attempted stop during the fourth quarter of a regular season NFL football matchup Sunday, Nov. 27, 2022, at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville. The Jaguars edged the Ravens 28-27. [Corey Perrine/Florida Times-Union]

Fast forward one year, and the Vikes are looking to switch that towards a more versatile offense. The arrival of Josh Oliver, an outstanding blocking tight end, and C.J. Ham’s contract extension indicate a higher usage of plays with two tight ends or an additional fullback on the field. O’Connell certainly wants to achieve more versatility in both running and passing games to have more options available to attack the opponent’s weakness.

He can now run plays with heavy personnel but also spread the field. It will be tough for defenses to stop that if executed well.

3. Continuity

For the first time since his time in Washington, Kirk Cousins will play under the same play-caller in back-to-back seasons. That is a considerable advantage compared to other seasons because the duo of O’Connell and Cousins is familiar with each other. One thing the documentary “Quarterback” highlighted was that the QB wasn’t comfortable with the scheme and the playbook for half the season. This should be different in 2023.

Labeled Deep
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The only new players on offense are rookie Jordan Addison, who has looked nothing short of spectacular, and Oliver, who can change the looks of the offense. All other players return from last season, and the group should be expected to hit the ground running.

4. Justin Jefferson

Perhaps the best player in the NFL, Justin Jefferson, has made quite the impression on the league. In various rankings throughout the year, Jefferson cracked the top five and was commonly ranked behind only Patrick Mahomes.

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He is the reigning Offensive Player of the Year and will continue to be the offense’s focal point. The presence of Oliver might open up more things for him. Addison’s emergency could be a potential game-changer, as double teams don’t work if an offense has multiple threats. After 1,400 yards in his debut season, 1,616 in his second campaign, and 1,809 in 2022, his next goal is to become the first player ever to crack 2,000 receiving yards in a single season.

5. Situational Masters

Since his arrival, O’Connel has preached the expression situational masters, and it showed last season. The Vikings were 11-0 in one-scoring games, which is why they are a popular candidate to regress in the upcoming season. Indeed, teams usually don’t repeat that kind of success in consecutive years, especially because the dimension was totally unprecedented.

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Regardless, some of the victories in clutch situations can be attributed to O’Connell’s emphasis on those moments, and that hasn’t changed. The Vikings may just be good in the clutch, including Cousins’ mastery in the fourth quarter. He is leading the NFL in fourth-quarter touchdown passes since he arrived in Minnesota in 2018 by a wide margin.

6. New Defenders

Flores’ arrival isn’t the only change in the defense. The personnel has also changed. Eric Kendricks and Jordan Hicks were too slow to keep up with spread offenses and fast running backs, especially the coverage was a disaster. Speed is one thing Brian Asamoah provides as Kendricks’ successor, and then there is Ivan Pace, the exciting, undrafted rookie who is also much more explosive and offers a different pass-rush skillset.

Vikings Unveil Footage
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Patrick Peterson played well in 2022 but is not getting any younger. Byron Murphy competed with Jefferson in training camp and played quite well. Marcus Davenport replaces Za’Darius Smith, bringing solid pass-rush prowess and excellent run defense from the edge. The young cornerbacks Akayleb Evans and Mekhi Blackmon are unproven but are promising talents whom Flores’ blitzes will protect.

Josh Metellus will get more run than in previous years, and he has been the Vikes’ breakout star and received praise from various people in the organization throughout the offseason.

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