Minnesota Vikings, Def, Vikings
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2015 Outlook: Bye Week Fill-inLast updated on Aug-20-2015 by Shawn Childs
Based on last year's results, the Vikings defense has one of the better schedules against the run. They'll face nine teams with below par running games. They have two tough matchups on the ground against the Niners and Seahawks. On the passing side, Minnesota has potentially seven tough games – two games against the Lions, two games against the Packers and one game against the Falcons, Broncos and Giants. The Vikings will face five teams with weak passing defenses – the Niners, Chiefs, Rams, Raiders and Seahawks.
The Vikings finished 25th in the NFL in rushing yards (1943) while allowing 4.3 yards per carry and 10 rushing TDs. They only allowed six run of 20 yards or more, which was tied for the second-fewest in the league.
Defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd was Minnesota's best run defender in 2014. He also added value to the pass rush (five sacks, five QB hits, and 20 QB hurries). Floyd was much improved after a flat rookie season when he was drafted 23rd in the first round. Defensive end Everson Griffin did an excellent job attacking the QB (11 sacks, 13 sacks, and 40 QB hurries). Everson was also an asset against the run. 2014 was Griffin's best season in the NFL as a fourth-round draft selection in 2010. Defensive tackle Linval Joseph has provided a slight edge against the run and occasional value rushing the QB (five sacks, five QB hits, and 19 QB hurries) over the last two years. Defensive end Brian Robison was the weak link on the defensive line in 2014. He struggled against the run and only accumulated four sacks, but Brian did apply pressure (11 QB hits and 37 QB hurries). In 2013, he produced nine sacks, 11 QB hits and 63 QB hurries. Robison suffered a minor pectoral injury in May, but he is expected to be ready for training camp.
Linebacker Anthony Barr was helpful in run support during his rookie season after being drafted ninth overall in 2014. Barr tallied four sacks, five QB hits and 11 QB hurries in 12 games of action. His season ended in week 13 due to a slight meniscus tear. Anthony is expected to be at full strength for training camp. Line backer Eric Kendricksis expected to start his rookie season. Kendrick was drafted in the second round of this year's NFL draft. He will upgrade the run defense with his pass coverage skills. Line backer Chad Greenway hasn't been an asset on defense since 2011. He is a former first round draft pick (2006) with no value rushing the QB. His game is now a liability against the run as well. The Vikings will probably cut Chad's playing time this year. The next best option is LB Gerald Hodges. Hodges played well against the run last year and is decent in pass coverage. However, he offers no upside rushing the QB.
Minnesota Vikings LB Anthony Barr
Corner back Xavier Rhodes showed tremendous growth in pass coverage (44 catches for 526 yards with two TDs and Int on 83 pass attempts) during his second year in the league after being selected in the first round of the 2013 draft. Safety Harrison Smith finished as the second best safety in the league in 2014. Smith was great in run support and is a solid playmaker (three sacks and five Ints). Harrison is also a former first round draft pick (2012). Safety Robert Blanton adds value in run support with league average value in pass coverage. Rookie CB Trae Waynes should have the inside track to start, but the Vikings do have some veteran depth at the CB position (Terence Newman and Captain Munnerlyn). Munnerlyn suffered a minor foot injury in early June. Waynes will add speed to the position and upgrade the team's pass coverage. The Vikings would love it if Trae could handle one-on-one coverage with no support over the top.
Minnesota recorded 41 sacks last year, which was the ninth-highest total in the league. They allowed the seventh-fewest passing yards (3572) with 26 TDs and 13 Ints.
I'm intrigued by the Vikings defense in 2015. The right side of the defensive line is going to be stellar. They potentially have four starting first round draft picks at linebacker and in their secondary. Minnesota has focused on adding as much talent as possible in pass coverage this offseason. If Waynes can make an impact as a cover corner in his rookie season, the Vikings will be able to shift personnel to help in run support. They will also have the ability to double cover in pass coverage when needed. The key to Minnesota's defensive success will be the left side of the defensive line and the weak linebacker corps. Minnesota also has talented kick returners. Last year, the Vikings defense had five strong fantasy games. I expect this defense to finish in the top 10 in the NFL. I will target the Vikings as my second defense, but I'm more than willing to live with them as my top option if my timing is off on draft day.
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