Oct 13, 2013; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Carolina Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith (89) catches a touchdown pass during the first quarter against the Minnesota Vikings at Mall of America Field at H.H.H. Metrodome. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

A Sober Assessment of the Vikings' Defensive Personnel


We all came into the 2013 season with high hopes for the Vikings’ defense. We drank the Alan Williams Kool Aid on the new scheme which would be more aggressive, with more man-coverage and blitzing, and would force more turnovers. But after five games the great D hasn’t materialized. They were able to make some big plays in the early games, which helped keep those games close, but remove the occasional big play capability and what do you have? The tissue paper-like unit we saw Sunday against the offensively underwhelming Carolina Panthers. No takeaways plus stagnant offense equals 35-10 blowout.

Alan Williams seemed to have no answers for what Carolina was throwing out there. It wasn’t like they were pushing the ball down the field either. It was just basic dink-and-dunk all day with the odd wrinkle thrown in. From afar it looked like lack of physical effort at times, and obviously there were some severe mental breakdowns. And the one opportunity for a big play clanked off the iron hands of Jamarca Sanford. But in Williams’ defense, I’m not sure he has the personnel right now to make his scheme work. It’s all fine-and-good to say you want to blitz and play man but you need players who can actually get home on a blitz occasionally, and corners who can actually man up against receivers. To me the players on the field are the big problem.

So where is this team right now personnel-wise? Let’s go through each position and soberly assess the key players.

Defensive line

Brian Robison – The Chad Greenway of defensive linemen. He shows up just enough to remind you he isn’t too bad. Would benefit from having better players around him.

Letroy Guion – A backup receiving significant snaps. You want the Vikings’ defense to improve? Get better up the middle by not having guys like Guion starting. Also he’s an idiot.

Fred Evans – Situational player being used exactly as he should be used.

Kevin Williams – Almost a non-entity at this point. Sad but true.

Sharrif Floyd – I’ll get back to you once Leslie Frazier decides he’s proven himself worthy of seeing significant game time. I personally would like to see him start but that might hurt K-Will’s feelings and you know how Leslie feels about hurting old guys’ feelings.

Jared Allen – The Randy Moss of defensive ends: plays when he wants to play. Gripes when he wants to gripe which is constantly.

Everson Griffen – Creates havoc when he is on the field, but can he be an every-down player?

Linebackers

Chad Greenway – Looked a lot better when he had prime-era E.J. Henderson starting next to him and Antoine Winfield out there cleaning up in the run game. And Pat Williams swallowing up everything in the middle. He’s a good player who unfortunately is saddled with an undeservedly large contract, which guarantees he’ll get criticized more than he probably should.

Erin Henderson – Might be an adequate starting weak-side backer, but he’s playing the middle. And he’s playing in nickel even though he is brutal in coverage.

Desmond Bishop – What I saw of him looked okay, but then he got hurt again.

Marvin Mitchell – Another backup who was starting. Initially he was starting just because they wanted him to start, now he’ll probably be starting again cause the guy they signed to start who they didn’t actually start until game 5 is hurt…again.

Secondary

Chris Cook – I think it’s time for us to admit that Chris Cook has topped out. He has topped out maybe two notches below Cedric Griffin. And Cedric was slightly above-average.

Xavier Rhodes – Still isn’t playing in the base defense. Why? Because of Leslie Frazier’s dogmatic “rookies have to earn it” stance. You’re right Leslie, Xavier needs to prove himself before you bump a guy as great as Josh Robinson.

Josh Robinson – Rightly or wrongly, he has become the symbol of everything that is wrong with this defense. It’s obvious this guy simply does not belong on the field but Frazier evidently thinks he has no other option. Robinson is running around out there like he never saw a football field before in his life.

Marcus Sherels – Frazier “mixed in” Sherels a little bit on Sunday. You know what that means. He’s trying to make up his mind to make up his mind to bench Josh Robinson but he just can’t make up his mind so maybe he’ll think about it a little more and mix in Marcus Sherels next week. Why don’t you mull that over a little more Leslie.

Antoine Winfield – Really loves the Dish Network Multi-Sport pack.

Jamarca Sanford – He does stuff that makes him easy to like, then does other stuff that makes him easy to hate. I think he fits the scheme but I’m not sure.

Harrison Smith – It would be great if Alan Williams could use him the way I think he wants to use him, as an all-over-the-field playmaking type, but having no corners means you’re mostly forced to leave your safeties over the top. That’s what stinks so bad about having subpar players at multiple positions. It hampers the good players you do have.

Andrew Sendejo – He got a two-year contract extension cause Mike Priefer likes his spunk! He keeps having to play because our safeties keep getting hurt.

The good news? A poopton of money comes off the books once Jared Allen leaves. So maybe Rick Spielman will spend a couple bucks on a corner. Building through the draft is nice but it will take at least two more to fix this mess. You wanna wait that long?

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  • http://www.angrymetalguy.com Angry Metal Guy

    I don’t really understand all the griping about the offense. Before last night, the offense was looking pretty good this year. Coming into the week we were fourth in points scored. I think the sore point has long been the defense. I guess I’m just not buying the pressure with the front four model these days, it’s obvious that our line is not good enough to do that.

    But going all the way back to 2009, our secondary was a problem. And that secondary has degraded and degraded and degraded to the point where it is about as bad as a secondary can be. Something’s gotta give defensively, but I think a big part of it is that we need to _invest in the defense_. Get a competent QB in (which apparently Cassel is not, and apparently Ponder was more than we realized [see: Matt Cassel's performance yesterday]), and this offense will do fine. That defense? It can’t stop a thing. Can. Not. Stop. A. Thing. Can’t stop the passing game. Can’t stop the screen game. Can’t stop the running game. There’s something seriously wrong there, and I think it’s just that it’s bad.

    • Daniel Laxen

      Cassel is hitting on nearly 68% of his passes…Ponder was not! Both horrible INTs were a result of pressure up the middle and over throws because of that. I will agree that our secondary is weak, but the real mitigating factor is that the depth of that secondary is clearly not what it should be. When Jared Allen, either leaves, or takes less in pay (doubtful) the depth can be addressed. Then again when the Vikings pay Freeman to be the starter next year some of the cleared space will be gone…It’s no doubt that getting pressure helps a secondary. Even one as bad as this one is!

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  • Bob E.

    our defense can be compared to Christian Ponder’s career… one step forward, two steps back over the last couple seasons. We need stronger defensive tackles and much better Cornerbacks… like now.

  • YouSirArePathetic

    Um no… our defensive struggles are because our front 4 do not create pressure which is the most important part of running a cover 2 scheme. Chris Cook is top 5 in yards given up per snap…. He is a good corner who is gonna continue to improve if he stays healthy which is a long shot. There are holes in a cover 2… if a qb has all day in the pocket he will expose them… stop being a fool.

    • Daniel Laxen

      Word! I’ve seen the Vikings blitz more this year than ever. Henderson NEVER gets home! He runs right into someone every time and it’s sad. Him at the MLB is a failure!

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  • Daniel Laxen

    Did you see #69 sack Eli with the LT between him and the QB…Yeah, limit his snaps, you tool! #97 is the invisible man these days! He is playing tackle on 3rd down though…