The Minnesota Vikings finished the 2021 season with an 8-9 overall record but 4-2 within the NFC North and as a result, they didn’t make the NFL playoffs. They were closer than it looks, though. The Vikings lost eight of their nine games by one score and were competitive all season.
If a few of those games went the opposite direction, this team finishes with double-digit wins and makes the playoffs.
A big catalyst to the disappointing 2021 campaign was the lack of defensive consistency and impact. Here are some numbers to help paint the picture for this Vikings defense.
- 24th in Points Allowed
- 25th in Rushing Defense DVOA
- 25th in Yards per Pass Allowed
- 25th in 2nd Half Points Allowed
- 26th in Yards per Play
- 26th in Rushing Yards Allowed
- 26th in Defensive Penalties
- 26th in Defensive Penalty Yards
- 28th in Passing Yards Allowed
- 29th in Yards per Rush Allowed
- 30th in Yards Allowed
On the bright side, they finished second in the league with 51.0 sacks, fourth in defensive third down percentage, and 10th in interceptions. So, while it wasn’t all negative, there were more red flags defensively than preferred. As a result, there have been changes all over the organization – from the front office to the roster. Mike Zimmer is no longer the head coach with Kevin O’Connell slotting in. Kwesi Adofo-Mensah was hired as the new General Manager with a new plan and approach to the NFL draft. During the draft two months ago, the Vikings added defensive backs, Lewis Cine, Andrew Booth Jr, Akayleb Evans and linebacker Brian Asamoah. The rookies will now pair with free agent additions of ZaDarius Smith, Harrison Phillips and Jordan Hicks now, too.
A “healthy” pass rushing duo of Smith and Danielle Hunter with an improved secondary should be extremely disruptive for opposing quarterbacks. If they can improve their run defense with Dalvin Tomlinson and Phillips on the interior, it will put teams in mandatory passing situations and give the defense some breathing room. It will be up to the defensive line to keep their linebackers covered and clean to scrape/flow to the football freely, as well.
As the rankings above show, the Vikings’ defense wasn’t a strength last season but that doesn’t mean it will stay the same for 2022. Minnesota’s crop of rookies bring athleticism, versatility and energy, while the veteran additions add toughness, leadership, and toughness.
In all, the Vikings’ defensive talent improved this offseason at all three levels. Now, it’s a matter of putting it together starting with training camp at the end of the summer. Finishing near the bottom in major categories, there is plenty of room to climb this season. Only time will tell if they do.
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