Vikings Achilles’ Heel Is Worrisome for Brian Flores

Vikings to Showcase
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.

The necessary defensive rebuild caused the Vikings to make many moves with the coaching staff and the player personnel. Firing Ed Donatell, who coordinated an uninspiring defensive unit, one without pressure up front nor solid coverage in the backend, was the first step. Brian Flores, former head coach of the Miami Dolphins, replaced him, but the roster could be a problem.

Vikings Achilles’ Heel Is Worrisome for Brian Flores

Is Worrisome for Brian Flores
Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores in Miami Gardens, September 15, 2019. © Allen Eyestone via Imagn Content Services, LLC.

Flores runs a much more aggressive defensive scheme than Donatell. He likes to bring pressure by designating some extra pass rushers. That approach can be a double-edged sword for defenders. One example is the secondary. With the added pressure, the timing of the passing game will be disrupted at times and will make the job offense’s job much harder. On the flip side, if the blitz is picked up, the cornerbacks will be in single coverage, and their lives suddenly get harder. The question the Vikings have to answer is if they have the personnel to do that.

Bucky Brooks from wrote about the Vikings’ potential issues on defense:

The team’s offseason roster purge included longtime franchise stalwarts Dalvin Cook, Adam Thielen and Eric Kendricks. Decorated veterans Za’Darius Smith and Patrick Peterson have also exited stage. Defensively, Minnesota’s coming off a disastrous season that saw the team finish 28th in points allowed and 31st in yards allowed.

Brian Flores was an inspired offseason hire, but the new defensive coordinator takes over a unit hurting for experience and expertise in key spots (SEE: pass rusher, middle linebacker and cornerback). This will force Coach Flo to utilize a smoke-and-mirrors approach that features a myriad of blitzes and games to mask the unit’s deficiencies. While the new DC is a masterful tactician and strategist, Minnesota might simply lack the Jimmys and Joes to make Flores’ Xs and Os come to life.

Bucky Brooks

Indeed, the Vikings were a much more experienced group last year, but that didn’t amount to anything productive on the field. The unit appeared to be too slow more often than not, and the age of the players certainly played a role in that. Despite the numerous changes, it remains to be seen if the new group is actually more talented on the field than the last one.

It's Officially Brian Asamoah Time
Dec 4, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings linebacker Brian Asamoah II (33) leaps over the celebration pile late during the fourth quarter after an interception by safety Camryn Bynum. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

The decline of staples of the Mike Zimmer era hurt the defense. Eric Kendricks slowly turned into a liability compared to the All-Pro linebacker from a few years ago. He’ll be replaced by Brian Asamoah, a second-year player. The young guy brings the speed that Kendricks lacked, but his shortage of experience could be a problem in diagnosing plays. It could be both an upgrade or a downgrade, and only time will tell which one it is. Asamoah has a good instructor – Flores was a linebackers coach in Pittsburgh and New England.

Another potential issue for the new defensive coordinator is the level of cornerback play. Top CB Patrick Peterson departed and was replaced by Byron Murphy. The veteran Peterson had a great start to the season but slowed down later in the year. Murphy has the potential to be a decent substitute and the team’s CB1. However, the Vikes’ CB group is a mystery behind the free-agent addition.

The three young guys — rookie Mekhi Blackmon and second-year players, Andrew Booth and Akayleb Evans — need to step up and fill the void. Of course, entering their first or second season, the trio clearly lacks experience, and some growing pains can be expected. Still, Evans showed some promise as a rookie, while Booth was a second-rounder for a reason. Blackmon had a phenomenal college career.

One Viking Totally
Sep 19, 2021; Glendale, Arizona, USA; Minnesota Vikings defensive end Danielle Hunter (99) following the game against the Arizona Cardinals at State Farm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Billy Hardiman-USA TODAY Sports.

Brooks also mentioned the pass-rushing group, but that is not a concern unless the team trades away Danielle Hunter. He and Marcus Davenport should form one of the better duos at the position. Backups D.J. Wonnum and Patrick Jones have shown their ability to be fine backups.

Hunter is in a contract dispute with the Vikes as he is only scheduled to be paid $5.5 million for his 2023 campaign. Understandably, the Pro Bowler wants more than that, and chances are that he’ll get it somewhere. The question is just will the Vikings pay him or trade him to another team that will? If the latter is the case, Flores’ unit could lack some talent in the edge-rushing group, and Flores would have to make up for it by calling even more blitzes which might put the young CBs in jeopardy.

An improved unit is likely, but there will be growing pains, and the improvements might be marginal, especially early in the campaign.

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