Vikings’ Reason for Optimism Is an Easy Choice

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports.

The Minnesota Vikings surprised many people by winning 13 games in 2022 – the first season with their new skipper Kevin O’Connell. Offensively, the Vikings showed a lot of promise, especially the passing attack was productive, but more consistency throughout games is desired. However, the clear weakness of the team was the defense.

Vikings’ Reason for Optimism Is an Easy Choice

A defense that ranked 30th in points allowed and 31st in yards allowed was bound for changes, and the Vikings made many of those. The list of departed starters seems endless. Za’Darius Smith was traded to the Browns after he wanted out. He joins Dalvin Tomlinson, who signed an extremely lucrative contract in Cleveland – too much for the Vikings.

Optimism Is an Easy Choice
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.

Cornerback Patrick Peterson signed a two-year deal with the Steelers. He played well for most of the year but slowed down late. A two-year contract for a 33-year-old cornerback is a bold bet. His counterparts Cameron Dantzler, Duke Shelley, and Chandon Sullivan are all gone, just like Eric Kendricks, who handled the linebacker duties in Minnesota for eight seasons.

Despite the many personnel changes, the largest reason for optimism is the hire of Brian Flores as the new defensive coordinator. Kristopher Knox from Bleacher Report also believes that.

The good news is that the hiring of defensive coordinator Brian Flores may help make the Vikings a better overall team. Minnesota’s offense was potent in 2022 (eighth in scoring), but its defense (31st overall, 30th in points allowed) was too often laughable.

Flores has a track record of getting quick results. The Dolphins ranked 32nd in points allowed in Flores’ first season as head coach. By Year 2, they ranked sixth. As a senior assistant and linebackers coach for the Pittsburgh Steelers last year, Flores helped turn a run defense that ranked last in 2021 into a top-10 group this past season.

While Minnesota’s defense probably won’t jump into the ranks of the elite this season, it should be much more efficient than it was under Ed Donatell.

Kristopher Knox, Bleacher Report

The defense was indeed laughable at times. Allowing Mac Jones and Mike White to look like Tom Brady is unacceptable. Daniel Jones should also thank the Vikings for receiving a $40 million/year contract extension. The unit held opponents under 22 points only four times in 18 attempts.

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

Flores was a successful head coach in Miami, turning around the franchise from a laughing stock to a respectable organization in only three years but was fired despite logging back-to-back winning seasons for the first time in almost two decades.

His defensive coaching style is the opposite of Donatell’s. He wants to put pressure on opponents, while Donatell used his ‘bend-don’t-break’ idea, which didn’t work at all.

A problem for Flores could be his personnel. Danielle Hunter’s status is a mystery as he demands a new contract – for good reason. He is scheduled to only make $5.5 million in 2023 after going to his third Pro Bowl. Flores must hope to get him back. Marcus Davenport, the free agency signing, is the other starting pass rusher.

Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

Hunter’s presence would make life easier for the shaky secondary. Byron Murphy is the only proven cornerback on the roster, with 2022 draft pick Andrew Booth and Akayleb Evans competing with rookie Mekhi Blackmon for the remaining starting jobs. Last year’s first-round pick Lewis Cine could provide a spark as a safety.

Brian Asamoah will take over as linebacker for Kendricks and is also an unproven defender. The defensive line is a new struggle. Harrison Phillips and the departed Tomlinson formed a solid DT duo, but the Vikings need someone from their current group to step up. Khyiris Tonga is a candidate to have a breakout season.

The Vikings certainly have some talented players, but most are unproven and could struggle early on. It is a clear bet on Flores and his play-calling ability to improve the unit.

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