Vikings Defenders Want to Focus on One Aspect

2022 Vikings Betting Odds Tracker: Week 8
Jaylen Waddle, Harrison Smith, Jordan Hicks, and Camryn Bynum. © BILL INGRAM / THE PALM BEACH PSOT / USA TODAY NETWORK.

The Minnesota Vikings are coming off a 13-4 season with some fluky wins. Many of those lucky wins were necessary because the defense was a disaster, allowing opposing offenses to have field days against Ed Donatell’s unit, eventually costing him his job. Brian Flores was hired to oversee the defensive turnaround with a bunch of new players.

Vikings Defenders Want to Focus on One Aspect

The defense has looked improved in some areas, especially the passing defense is better. However, the 2022 group did some things well, like creating turnovers. They ranked tied eighth, forcing 25 turnovers in the regular season. Minnesota ranked in the top half in interceptions and fumbles forced.

Vikings Defenders Want to Focus on 1 Aspect
Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports.

That changed in 2023, at least through two games. The Vikings recorded one takeaway on a bad throw by Jalen Hurts, but the offense and special teams gave up seven turnovers. A differential of negative six is hard to overcome. Of course, the offense needs to clean up its issues with giving away the ball, but the defense is also in the focus. Both units must improve to come away with a positive turnover ratio, which plays a huge part in winning games in the NFL.

The good news is that the defenders know about it, and a trio of defensive backs spoke about their intention to force some takeaways. One of them was star safety Harrison Smith, a player who has seen it all in his career and had his fair share in the turnover game.

“That’s another area we have to improve on. The reality is we’re like minus six in turnovers right now which is obviously a really telling stat when it comes to wins and losses so as a defense we need to pick up our end and create more whether it’s through fumbles or interceptions.”

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

Smith is the career leader in interceptions among active players with 34, tied with last year’s teammate Patrick Peterson. The veteran caught five passes last year and is a good bet to log a few this season as a seasoned veteran who can read quarterbacks like few others. The guy next to him, Camryn Bynum, also opined on the lack of takeaways:

“On our side of defense, we didn’t create a lot of turnovers at all. Theo (Jackson) had the first interception of the season and for us to have our first turnover in the second half of the second game, that’s not up to our standards. So that’s really where we’re starting and figuring out ways to take the ball more especially as DBs, that’s what we’re on the field for, mainly to go get the ball and we haven’t been doing a good job at that, so that’s one thing we’re focusing on moving forward.”

Josh Metellus also mentioned turnovers as a goal going forward: “We gotta find a way to get turnovers. We gotta close that turnover gap in the turnover margin, and that’s a big part of the defense.”

Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

Bynum and Metellus combined for four interceptions throughout the last two seasons. At the end of the day, defenses must get off the field, and it doesn’t matter if they force a punt or create turnovers, but the latter option is a true momentum swing and gives the offense a short field to work with.

Winning the turnover battle should be the goal of every team on a weekly basis, and the Vikings have done a poor job so far. It is certainly something the team should eye to improve, and the fact that the players talk about it is a good sign.

Forcing turnovers, stopping to turn the ball over, and running the ball better are the three ways to win the time of possession battle.

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