Vikings Will Reveal Their Face Early in 2023 Campaign

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A tumultuous offseason comes to an end, and nobody really knows how good the Vikings really are. Pundits expect eight or nine wins. Fans think the team is closer to a ten or eleven-win team. Coming off an outstanding regular season with 13 victories, the franchise once again dissatisfied fans in the playoffs when they lost their only game.

The team took action and changed a lot, especially on the defensive side of the ball, where the most struggles happened. But is it enough to have a deep playoff run, or is the season already doomed?

Vikings Will Reveal Their Face Early in 2023 Campaign

The first significant change was replacing the defensive coordinator, Ed Donatell, who had to pack his bags after only one season with the club. An uninspiring defensive scheme that lacked aggressiveness and complexity to confuse offenses directly led to his dismissal. Donatell wanted to die the slow death on the field, and the Vikings often did just that when they watched offenses led by the likes of Mac Jones and Mike White march up and down the field.

Vikings Will Reveal Their Face Early in 2023 Campaign
Minnesota Vikings Head Coach Kevin O’Connell introduced new Defensive Coordinator Brian Flores from the TCO Performance Center on February 15th, 2023. Flores coached for the New England Patriots, Miami Dolphins, and Pittsburgh Steelers before joining the Vikings in 2023.

Brian Flores, Donatell’s replacement, stands for aggressiveness. He wants to blitz. He turned around Miami’s defense when he was head coach there without a lot of talent, and he must do the same in Minnesota because not just the scheme was the problem. Also, lack of talent was an issue.

The Vikings got rid of a bunch of players in the offseason, most on defense. Adam Thielen and Eric Kendricks, two beloved members of the organization, were released to save cap space after they had a down season. In addition to them, Dalvin Tomlinson departed just like most of the CB room. Patrick Peterson, Duke Shelley, Cameron Dantzler, and Chandon Sullivan are all gone after starting games in 2022. The most recent move was the trade of Za’Darius Smith to the Cleveland Browns.

On the flip side, general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah signed cornerback Byron Murphy and pass rusher Marcus Davenport and drafted some players who should contribute early in their careers, especially wideout Jordan Addison. Additionally, the 2022 rookies Andrew Booth, Akayleb Evans, and Lewis Cine are finally healthy and can show their worth.

There Are 3 Differences Between the Vikings and the NFC Championship Teams
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Vikings fans will know early in the season if the team is for real or not. While the Week 1 matchup at home against the Buccaneers is a winnable game, they still shouldn’t be overlooked. The next few games will be tough. The team will travel to Philadelphia to face the Super Bowl runner-up Eagles, followed by a home game against the Chargers led by Justin Herbert.

Week 5 will be against the Super Bowl champions Chiefs and Week 7 against the 49ers — both games at home. Games on the road against the Panthers and first overall pick Bryce Young and in Chicago, a place where the Vikings historically struggle, shouldn’t be neglected. Week 8 will be in Lambeau Field against the Jordan Love-led Packers.

The Vikings have tough game after tough game early in the season, including contests against both Super Bowl teams, the strong 49ers who will have a QB unlike in the NFC Championship game, the Chargers with a new offense and a healthy Herbert, and a couple of divisional games on the road.

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That stretch on the schedule looks hard on paper. However, if the Vikes want to compete, they must be able to beat other competing squads. A great team doesn’t fear other great groups. If the Vikings don’t have a chance against the 49ers, Eagles, or Chiefs, they aren’t serious title contenders, but if they can hang with those opponents, they should be taken seriously. They should also beat a team convincingly. That is an area the Vikings struggled with in recent years.

The Eagles and the Cowboys blew out the 2022 Vikings, and Minnesota couldn’t win with more than one score against the bad teams. A contending team doesn’t do that.

Unlike last season when nobody knew if the team was any good entering the postseason even after winning 13 games and easily the division crown, everyone will know if the Vikes are contenders or pretenders before the season’s halfway point.

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