The Minnesota Vikings let go of 2022 defensive coordinator Ed Dontell on January 19th, four days after the franchise lost to the New York Giants at home in the NFC Wildcard Round.
Famed NFL Analyst Explains Aptly Vikings 2023 Defense
On February 6th, after an extensive search, the Vikings hired Brian Flores to run the 2023 defense, tasking the former Miami Dolphins head coach with fixing Minnesota’s unit in a hurry.
Minnesota finished 13-4 in 2022 while somehow showcasing the league’s sixth-worst defense per DVOA, third-worst group per points allowed, and second-worst via yards allowed. It didn’t take a mathematician to realize the Vikings could’ve extended their season beyond Round 1 of the playoffs if the defense wasn’t repugnant.
So, that’s why Flores now works for the Vikings, and per his resume, his defensive scheme compared to Donatell’s, is about as similar as Hillary Clinton to Donald Trump. Flores fancies aggression and bold defensive behavior, whereas Donatell banked on shell coverage and defensive conservatism.
And famed NFL analyst Greg Cosell picked up the topic this week, illuminating the Vikings defensive outlook on The Xs and Os podcast. Cosell explained, “You’re going to see schemed pressure, which you did not see at all under Ed Donatell. Nor did you see a lot of versatility on the back end in how they played. They did not play a ton of different coverage concepts. They played a ton of two-shell.”
“I hate to use the word soft because Ed Donatell would never think, ‘Oh, we played soft.’ But they didn’t do a lot of different things. My guess is, opposing offenses felt that they were not very difficult to scheme against,” Cosell continued.
At one point during the regular season, head coach Kevin O’Connell told Donatell how he would’ve schemed against him as a former offensive coordinator, but the strategy or chat never really got off the ground or helped, evidently.
Cosell concluded, “They’ve got some questions in terms of personnel on defense, though. Especially at cornerback. We’ll see how Brian Flores feels about playing with a lot of pressure — which he likes to do; he’s an aggressive guy by nature — when your cornerbacks are unproven.”
Minnesota subtracted five cornerbacks from the 2023 roster, including Patrick Peterson, Duke Shelley, Cameron Dantzler, Chandon Sullivan, and Kris Boyd. Meanwhile, it welcomed veterans Byron Murphy, Joejuan Williams, and John Reid, plus the rookie additions of Mekhi Blackmon and Jay Ward.
Ergo, we know for sure Flores will blitz like a fiend — that’s what he does. We shall see if Cosell’s anxiety about the cornerbacks is relevant or if a young secondary matures and produces on the fly.
The Vikings haven’t reached the postseason in back-to-back seasons in 14 years.
Dustin Baker is political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. He hosts podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sal Spice. His Vikings obsession dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ Basset Hounds, and The Doors (the band).
All statistics provided by Pro Football Reference / Stathead; all contractual information provided by OverTheCap.com.