How Brian Flores Can Solve the Vikings iDL Problem

Jamie Sabau-USA TODAY Sports

One area of the Vikings roster causes more concern than any other: the interior defensive line.

It was a big problem last season and looks set to continue in the same vein unless improvements can be made from a coaching standpoint. Having been given limited resources to improve for the 2024 season, let’s take a look at how Brian Flores can solve the iDL problem.

How Brian Flores Can Solve the Vikings iDL Problem

As defensive coordinator, Flores’ job is to devise a solution. He is tasked to do that without any significant upgrade to the roster, and Harrison Phillips is standing alone as a genuine starting quality player. The Vikings were rumored to be in on the free agency market for a defensive tackle to add next to Phillips, but with the top players at the position receiving huge paydays, it seems the Vikings were priced out. The Vikings signed former first-round pick Jerry Tillery to a cheap one-year deal. 

gabriel murphy
Minnesota defensive coordinator B. 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.

Tillery has been a disappointment since being drafted 28th overall back in 2019. As a smaller defensive lineman, his strength lies in rushing the passer, which the Vikings desperately need on the interior. Getting a consistent pass rush threat out of Tillery is one way Flores can improve his defensive line. Hoping Flores can bring out the potential that saw Tillery drafted so high after five underwhelming seasons is a long shot. Minnesota also signed Jonah Williams, who will compete for a depth role but won’t move the needle.

Incumbent starter Jonathan Bullard was re-signed, and the 30-year-old veteran provides an average starting option. James Lynch has also been re-signed. Lynch missed the entirety of the 2023 season due to a knee injury. At the time of the injury, Flores stated that Lynch had been “working his way up the depth chart” following recovery from surgery in the offseason. Lynch showed promise in three seasons following being drafted by the Vikings in the fourth round in 2020. His return is a boost to the depth chart.

The Big Hope From 2023

Last year, the Vikings drafted Jaquelin Roy in the fifth round. At this moment, the former LSU target provides the best bet for a player to make a significant leap and become the starter that the Vikings need. Roy had a quiet rookie season. Credited with one start from the 12 games he was involved in, he played on just 96 defensive snaps. From that playing time, he tallied 8 tackles, 1 tackle for loss, and 1 quarterback hit.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports.

Roy was seen as a player with potential coming into the 2023 draft. His strength and hustle make up for his lack of size (305 lbs) for the nose tackle position, but with pass-rushing moves that include an impressive swim move. If Roy can stand up to scrutiny in the run game, the potential is there for him to contribute significantly to the Vikings’ defense this season. He is one player to watch closely in the build-up to the new season.


I was certain Minnesota would either spend significantly in FA or draft high on the IDL. The Vikings did neither. Who they did draft was Levi Drake Rodriguez in the seventh round. Rodriguez is an fascinating prospect who garnered little draft hype until shining at the Tropical Bowl and then his pro day. Playing at only 290 lbs in college, he began adding weight in the draft build-up, which will likely continue under the guidance of the Vikings.

Draft Pick
Drake Levi Rodriguez. Undrafted free agent added by Minnesota after the 2024 NFL Draft from Texas A&M-Commerce. Rodriguez will compete for a roster spot this summer.

Rodriguez was chronicled anonymously by The Athletic as their yearly “Prospect X” – identifying the “most overlooked player” in the draft. He will be an interesting player to watch develop, but the results of his development are more likely to come further down the line than this season. The Vikings also signed undrafted rookies Taki Taimani and Tyler Manoa.

The Scheme

One of Flores’ great strengths is scheming ways to get the best out of the players he has at his disposal. We saw it last season when a defense lacking in talent had teams constantly confused in the first half of the season. Flores used a lot of three-edge rushers and seven defensive back sets to help cover the weaknesses of the IDL and at cornerback. 

Both are still areas of concern, and similar tactics will likely be employed again. The arrival of Jonathan Greenard, Andrew Van Ginkel, and Dallas Turner gives the Vikings great options for three edge rushers on the field with varying skill sets. I am excited to see what Flores can come up with in that regard.

Coach Already a Hot
Minnesota defensive coordinator B. Flores takes over the team’s defense at an introductory press conference on February 15th, 2023, in Eagan, Minnesota.

Flores has two months to finalize his defense plan before the season kicks off on August 9th at MetLife Stadium, when the Vikings take on the New York Giants.