You’d think they’d learn by now that a secondary consisting of 2 past their athletic prime vets and a group of rookies would make up a less than satisfactory unit, but the Minnesota Vikings are full of surprises. Watching Patrick Peterson’s greatest impact come during special teams is encouraging, but watching him just slowly but surely lose his touch as an NFL corner is hard to watch. Harrison Smith can’t be everywhere, and Cam Bynum biting on the underneath route and parting the Red Sea for a wide open touchdown is just a microcosm of this secondary’s growing pains.
Off the bat, Cam Danzlter was the only corner who was actively challenging passes at the point of contact. Every other corner was playing catch up as Ed Donetell’s shell coverage was exposed underneath as the lack of resistance at the line of scrimmage was a consistent build up for many possessions from the Eagles. It’s truly incredible how the energy of this defense has seemingly been sapped from their bodies as we saw this unit collectively ran over. The second level didn’t necessarily make the secondary’s life easier though.
The linebacker group saw many of the balls come in front of them and they were more or less helpless. Seeing DJ Wonnum on Devonte Smith was a genuine jaw stopper. Eric Kendricks was uncharacteristically being caught in bad spots as it felt the Eagles could do no wrong. This issue was staring the Vikings in the face this past offseason and it feels like any efforts they made to improve have been self sabotaged by an ineffective scheme that was never adjusted according to the motions of the game. Ed Donetell simply didn’t rework the tactics that were needed to maintain the passing game that was running rampant on his secondary, not until it was too late anyway.
Some may see the 2nd half shutout as an improvement, but a blown coverage touchdown and 2 rushing touchdowns from Jalen Hurts that were seemingly unstoppable say otherwise. The defense hunkered down and even managed to get a turnover and a blocked field goal, the lack of making the best out of such opportunities is more on the offense. However it can’t be stated enough how this team needs more versatility and better capability of handling short gains at the line of scrimmage. You’re essentially handing 4 yards to the offense every set of downs, and Cam Danztler can’t just cut down on every short pass. What might be the biggest question is where was Lewis Cine?
Cam Bynum was having a rough game in coverage and there were instances where his tackling just wasn’t enough as the impact of his hits seemingly bounced off the Eagles receivers. Lewis Cine’s hard hitting presence on the field would’ve been a breath of fresh air against a receiver like AJ Brown who was having his way in the intermediate passing game. That jackhammer from out deep would’ve worked wonders attitude wise as it felt like 2, maybe 3 Vikings total were giving full effort on defense. Andrew Booth’s absence is certainly being felt as the lack of physicality and initiative from the current group is seriously starting to damage the consistency all around. Patrick Peterson simply cannot cover deep routes anymore, he can’t track up and down the field in his current athletic state. He’s likely best as a zone coverage corner who can sit back and let the ball come to him rather than chase players who, in this modern NFL, run a 4.3 on a regular basis nowadays.
Adjustments are needed. A trade may be necessary to give this current secondary a better presence. It seems reactionary but this team doesn’t have time to let this current crop develop. The issue is there’s a severe lack of quality in what we’re looking for on the trade market, not without giving up significant value in return anyway. Until then, the current hope is that Andrew Booth comes back from his injury and gives the team the desired impact. Lofty expectations, but it’s all we’ve got unless the secondary is re-schemed to better suit the skill set of the players which is tricky at this point in time. For now, the Vikings are just going to have to cope with the problem. It’s a rough schedule, and the team is still well into contention with winning the division, but afterwards there are severe question marks. You can’t make a Super Bowl run with a defense like this, let alone a playoff run.
This team can’t lie to itself or ignore the issues, they need to make these adjustments now while it’s still early in the season. The Vikings are very lucky with that. We’ve seen turnarounds before, and seeing this secondary have such a turnaround would be a miracle in itself. It’s in the team’s own hands, let’s hope they fix it.