Harrison Smith Uses Thrilling Word to Describe New Defense

Another Stunning
Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

The Minnesota Vikings had to overhaul a disastrous defensive unit in the 2023 offseason. Half of last year’s starters are no longer on the team. Patrick Peterson, Duke Shelley, Chandon Sullivan, Cameron Dantzler, Eric Kendricks, Dalvin Tomlinson, and Za’Darius Smith will all suit up for different teams in the upcoming season.

The most significant change, however, happened when the Vikes fired defensive coordinator Ed Donatell and hired Brian Flores to replace him.

Harrison Smith Uses Thrilling Word to Describe New Defense

Harrison Smith Uses Thrilling Word to Describe New Defense
Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

Harrison Smith has been playing the safety role for the Vikings since he was selected with the 29th overall pick in the 2012 draft. The defender out of Notre Dame has had a Hall of Fame-worthy career, and he is still going strong. While he is no longer the elite superstar player he was for years, he is still an excellent player and a model of consistency.

In his 11 seasons with the purple team, Smith has appeared in 166 games, recorded 995 tackles, 17.5 sacks, forced 9 fumbles, and picked off QBs 34 times. He leads all active players in interceptions, tied with Patrick Peterson, a former teammate who joined the Pittsburgh Steelers earlier in the offseason.

Smith was a commonly projected cut candidate a few months ago, but he took a pay cut to stay with his organization. Something that should never be expected from any player, but it deserves praise when a player indeed does make it happen.

Brian Flores Changed the Vikings Offseason
Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

He is now entering his 12th season with the team and is again expected to take his spot in the defensive backfield. Nobody knows how the defense will look with Brian Flores as the overseer, but Smith is foreseen to be a wonderful fit with the new defensive boss. Smith’s versatility to play in the box and as a deep safety will make Flores’ job much easier.

Smith was available for media questions during OTAs and was asked what he likes most about the Flores and the new defense, and his response is telling:

“The aggression of it.”

Aggressiveness is the common theme among all Vikings defenders when discussing Flores and the defense. After over a decade in the Patriots’ defensive coaching staff, Flores received his chance to become a head coach for the first time in 2019. He took over a bad Dolphins team and transformed them into a respected franchise within three years. In 2020 and 2021, the Dolphins had their first consecutive winning seasons since 2003. His teams weren’t the most talented groups but always played hard and aggressively, even if they played for draft position only.

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.

Why is that aggression notable? It is a welcomed contrast to the defense Donatell ran last year. His unit was sitting back and watching Mike White and Mac Jones have the best games of their careers without making their lives uncomfortable.

Flores’ defensive coaching style is different than Donatell’s, possibly even the polar opposite. 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, arguably even worse than current Vikings, blitzed on 31.6%, the 14th most that year.

Considering the problems the Vikings have in the cornerback group, bringing pressure to help them out could be part of the solution.

Smith later added, “I think it’ll be fun. I’m learning as much as I can. I think we’ll have a good time.”

Expect the 34-year-old veteran Smith to be a key piece in a different-looking Vikings defense, a crew that must improve from the 3oth scoring defense in the NFL if the Vikings want to be a playoff team.

It will be one of the main themes in the next three months if 2022 first-round pick Lewis Cine claims the second starting safety spot.

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