Vikings DC Brian Flores Should Give His Old Buddy a Call

Brian Flores Name Drops
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Brian Flores took over last year after the dismissal of defensive coordinator Ed Donatell following his only season in charge of the unit. Former Dolphins head coach Flores turned around the group as it was much harder to beat for most parts of the season. The Vikings have continued the defensive overhaul in the free agency period.

Vikings DC Brian Flores Should Give His Old Buddy a Call

Vikings DC Brian Flores Should Give an Old Buddy a Call
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Flores’ approach is unique as nobody blitzes as much as he does. According to Pro Football Reference, the Vikings blitzed opposing QBs on 51.5% of the dropbacks, only two other teams had more than 40%. Flores sent at least one extra rusher 348 times. The Giants ranked second with only 288.

Whenever opposing teams figured out how they could counter the blitz, they were able to move the ball. On the flip side, however, when they struggled to pick it up or the quarterback couldn’t make the right decision fast enough, the defense worked. The additions of Jonathan Greenard, Andrew Van Ginkel, and Blake Cashman were great news as all three a superb scheme fits because of their versatility and rushing ability.

The two things the Vikings require to complete a marvelous defensive overhaul in the 2024 offseason are the acquisitions of a new defensive tackle and a cornerback.

8 Players We Think
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One of the available free agents knows Flores from his days as Miami’s head coach. Xavien Howard

Cornerback Howard was a 2016 second-rounder and has spent his entire career in Miami. The 30-year-old is a four-time Pro Bowler, and he was named first-team All-Pro after leading the league with ten interceptions when Flores was calling the shots in 2020.

Tom Pelissero tweeted on Wednesday: “Among the long-anticipated moves that are now official: The Dolphins have released CB Xavien Howard.”

His availability has been expected for weeks but now it is official which obviously allows teams to inquire about him and legally talk to his agent.

CB with Familiarity
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Howard played in 13 games in 2023, though he has been pretty reliable in previous seasons, appearing in 60 contests over the last four seasons.

Formerly considered one of the elite defenders in the league, he has lost a step at age 30 but would still be a great addition for the Vikings as a starting cornerback who provides more consistency compared to the young and unproven CBs under contract. He didn’t fit the Fangio defense very well. Flores’ system should be his preferred choice.

The Vikings employ starting cornerback Byron Murphy who will play on one side of the field. It will be a fascinating competition in training camp on the other side as the three young cornerbacks Akayleb Evans, Andrew Booth, and Mekhi Blackmon return and hope to have a significant role. Unless Minnesota adds a player like Howard, one of them will start.

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Evans was that guy for the majority of the 2023 season and he did pretty well for the most part. He struggled in the final three games and Flores even benched him in a couple of games. It remains to be seen how much the defensive coordinator trusts the 24-year-old going forward.

Booth enters his third season. He was stuck in a rotational role but when he stepped onto the field, he looked like someone with the second-round pedigree. Blackmon, meanwhile, was a third-round rookie and had many solid reps mixed with some usual rookie mistakes.

Howard’s arrival would put an end to that competition but if the Vikings think he is an upgrade, they shouldn’t hesitate and reunite him with his former coach.

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