Where the Vikings Must Improve in 2023

Apparently 1/3 of the NFL Wants Alexander Mattison
Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

The Minnesota Vikings added eight new veterans during the 2023 offseason, a batch headlined by EDGE rusher Marcus Davenport from the New Orleans Saints and cornerback Byron Murphy of the Arizona Cardinals.

Meanwhile, 10 players exited the backdoor via release, waiver, or trade, including big names like Adam Thielen (Panthers), Eric Kendricks (Chargers), Dalvin Tomlinson (Browns), Patrick Peterson (Steelers), and Za’Darius Smith (trade — Browns), among others.

Where the Vikings Must Improve in 2023

General manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah is effectuating his competitive rebuild philosophy in the flesh, shedding bloated contracts belonging to aging veterans, welcoming affordable and youthful defensive contributors, and refusing to extend Kirk Cousins’ contract, at least for now, beyond 2023.

Where the Vikings
Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

On offense, Minnesota became richer in the NFL draft, selecting Jordan Addison, a wide receiver, with its 1st-Round pick, while re-committing to the run with moves like welcoming Oliver, a run-blocking tight end, and re-upping fullback C.J. Ham. The Vikings also drafted UAB’s DeWayne McBride, a bruiser-like running back.

Here’s how the 2022 offense shook out by the numbers, and naturally, the rankings below 16th or so demand improvement. These are the great and good offense numbers:

  • 1st in 4th Quarter Points Scored
  • 2nd in 4th Quarter Offense EPA/Play
  • 2nd in 2nd Half Points Scored
  • 3rd in 10+ Yard Gains
  • 3rd in Pass Play % (frequency)
  • 4th in Passing TDs
  • 4th in 1st Downs
  • 5th in Completion %
  • 5th in 15+ Yard Gains
  • 6th in Passing Yards
  • 7th in Yards Gained
  • 7th in Rushing TDs
  • 8th in Points Scored
  • 8th in Redzone TD %
  • 8th in Yards per Point
  • 8th in TDs Scored
  • 9th in 50+ Yard Gains
  • 10th in Points per Play
  • 10th in 40+ Yard Gains
  • 11th in 2nd Quarter Offense EPA/Play
  • 12th in 3rd Down Conv %
  • 12th in Yards per Pass
  • 12th in Passer Rating
  • 13th in Yards per Play
  • 13th in Fewest Offensive Penalty Yards
  • 14th in INT %
  • 15th in Fewest Offensive Penalties
  • 15th in Passing DVOA
  • 15th in 1st Half Points Scored
  • 16th in QB Sacked %
  • 17th in Giveaways
Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

And the naughty parts on offense:

  • 18th in Offense EPA/Play
  • 18th in 25+ Yard Gains
  • 20th in Offense DVOA
  • 22nd in 4th Down Conv %
  • 25th in 1st Quarter Offense EPA/Play
  • 25th in Sacks Allowed
  • 26th in Time of Possession
  • 26th in Yards per Rush
  • 27th in Rushing Yards
  • 27th in 3rd Quarter Offense EPA/Play
  • 30th in Rush Play % (frequency)

Then, on defense, well, that’s a different enchilada. The Vikings were inefficient on defense last year, only stiffening late in 4th Quarter of games. That tendency would generally be exalted but instead grew tiresome as the season progressed. Fans often wondered, “Why can’t they play like this all game?”

Still, these were the positive facets of defense:

  • 3rd in Fewest Defensive Penalties
  • 3rd in Defensive 4th Down Conv %
  • 4th in Fewest 50+ Yard Gains Allowed
  • 6th in 4th Quarter Defense EPA/Play
  • 6th in Fewest Defensive Penalty Yards
  • 9th in Takeaways
  • 10th in 4th Quarter Points Allowed
  • 12th in Defensive 3rd Down Conv %
  • 14th in INT %
  • 14th in Passing TDs Allowed
  • 16th in Defensive EPA/Play
  • 16th in Yards per Point Allowed
Can Vikings Improve
Minnesota Vikings defensive coordinator Brian Flores chatting with Tatum Everett on February 15th, 2023. The Vikings hired Flores from the Pittsburgh Steelers, where he was a linebackers coach for one season.

The next chapter below is dreadful. But it doesn’t have to be that way anymore. Minnesota cut ties with 2022 defensive coordinator Ed Donatell four days after losing the playoffs and hired Brian Flores in February. Here’s what Flores must fix:

  • 18th in 3rd Quarter Defense EPA/Play
  • 19th in Passing Defense DVOA
  • 19th in 1st Quarter Defense EPA/Play
  • 20th in Rushing Yards Allowed
  • 21st in Redzone TD% Allowed
  • 21st in Sacks
  • 21st in Passer Rating Allowed
  • 22nd in Yards per Rush Allowed
  • 23rd in Rushing TDs Allowed
  • 23rd in Sack %
  • 24th in TDs Allowed
  • 24th in 40+ Yards Gains Allowed
  • 24th in Completion % Allowed
  • 24th in 2nd Half Points Allowed
  • 26th in Passing Defense DVOA
  • 26th in Points per Play Allowed
  • 26th in 1st Downs Allowed
  • 27th in Defensive DVOA
  • 28th in Points Allowed
  • 29th in 10+ Yard Gains Allowed
  • 29th in 1st Half Points Allowed
  • 30th in Yards per Play Allowed
  • 30th in Yards per Pass Allowed
  • 31st in 3rd Quarter Defense EPA/Play
  • 31st in Yards Allowed
  • 31st in Passing Yards Allowed
  • 31st in 15+ Yard Gains Allowed
  • 31st in 25+ Yard Gains Allowed

Most believe Minnesota can again contend for the NFC North if the Vikings nudge an assortment of these defensive metrics ‘to the middle’ of the league’s pecking order.

If it does not, the schedule is unfriendly, containing games against the Kansas City Chiefs, Philadelphia Eagles, Cincinnati Bengals, and San Francisco 49ers, for example, and the road will get bumpy.

The Vikings offense performed admirably in 2022 and boasts for-the-most-part continuity heading into 2023. The ginormous offseason question remains — can Flores fix the defense on the fly?

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).A

ll statistics provided by Pro Football Reference / Stathead; all contractual information provided by OverTheCap.com.