Why Have the Vikings Struggled on Defense? A Deep Dive

The Vikings have clawed their way to 10-2 on the season, setting themselves up for a nice postseason run. They have not won gloriously but they have got it done, you can look at their record and say “they are 10-2 what’s not to like?” the defense is what not to like. They let up 26 points to one of the worst QBs in the league, they let every wide receiver torch them every game, some of these things are out of their control but some can be fixed or just patched up a little.

What is out of their control?
The main thing is injuries, they are bound to happen and you have to deal with it, with injuries to Dalvin Tomlinson, Akayleb Evans and Cam Dantlzer. Some key positions have been very weak in the recent games. With 2 corners out they were forced to play Andrew Booth(who is also hurt) and Duke Shelley, who they picked up off the waivers mid season. Teams were constantly attacking that side of the field and torching them. The patriots made Shelley look silly. Booth, who was clearly not ready to play, also got abused in his only start. Dalvin Tomlinson has been having an amazing year, he has been able to clog the middle in run defense and pressure the QB for the interior which helps our outside rushers get to the QB. When you have 3 amazing rushers, someone will get to the QB. In these recent weeks the VIkings have had very little pressure and poor run defense, teams are exploiting James Lynch and Ross Blacklock. With the mini bye week after the Thanksgiving Win, the Vikings should have all their players well rested and healthy. Dantzler is eligible to come of the injured reserve after this week.

What can they do better?
From a base level view to the fans it is an easy answer. Blitz more and play less zone, it is not simple, there is truth behind those two statements and I believe that they should Blitz more with starters coming back from injury. However what I do not like is their soft cover 4 every single play. Players have been constantly making mistakes and with people like Duke Shelley on the field you almost have to be perfect. Cover 4 treats the fields as quarters, there are two outside corners who have the sideline quarters and the safeties have the middle quarters. You can see teams every week continue to throw the short pass or the middle of the field pass.

This is a quarters man concept, on the weak side of the field peterson is man to man with the receiver, and harrison has a deep half, on the strong side they have a quarters look with Shelley in the curl flat and Bynum in the deep 4th, Sullivan the slot corner appears to be in zone but is man to man with the inside receiver. The problem with this coverage is that it leaves the shallow sides of the field open to short and intermediate passes, this coverage is meant to stop the long ball. This coverage has been commonly used this season and I don’t think it’s the best thing to do.

Mixing in cover 4 is very important to stop the deep passes and allow your corners and safeties to be in the ball hawk position, however when your defensive line can’t get pressure and they are constantly being gauged in the run game this creates a problem, the pressure has to get their for this defense to be successful, the tackling has to be great and Kendricks and Hicks have to step it up.

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