Last year, the Vikings defense was one of the stronger points of the team. They helped to close out games and control the time of possession. However, that hasn’t been the case this year.
Here are the grades on the defensive side of the ball for Minnesota:
- Defensive Line – Grade: B
The Vikings linemen on the defensive side of the ball is the strong suit of this team. Anchored by veterans Jared Allen, Kevin Williams, and Brian Robison, this is a mature squad that are excellent mentors to the young players like Sharrif Floyd, and Everson Griffen. Sadly, this squad is only 21st in the NFL in sacks (21 total) after 9 weeks and has only 13 tackles for a loss all season. Despite that, this unit has played well on several occasions, including showing flashes of dominance at times, especially in the most recent win against the Washington Redskins.
- Linebackers – Grade: D+
The one thing to be said about this linebacker unit is that they are definitely tacklers. Leading the way this year is Erin Henderson in his first year from the middle linebacker position. He is leading the team in tackles after 9 weeks with 87 total takedowns. He should be aware that perennial leading tackler for the Vikings, Chad Greenway is hot on his tail with 80 total tackles. The same can’t be said for the weak side linebacker, where Marvin Mitchell and Desmond Bishop have combined for only 28 tackles. This unit also struggles mightily when asked to drop into coverage. They have only defended 6 passes that were sent their way this year. Much improvement is needed here.
- Secondary – Grade: D
There aren’t very many nice things to say about the Vikings secondary this year. The cornerbacks and safeties are struggling to stay healthy and find their identity as a unit. The group only has three interceptions on the year (two from the injured Harrison Smith and one from A.J. Jefferson) when they should be getting many more considering the pressure that this team can get from the defensive line. Chris Cook is fading into the background after injuries have kept him from making an impact. Rookie Xavier Rhodes has been learning as fast as he can, but is still adjusting. And Josh Robinson is having some trouble adapting to being the team’s nickel corner. They miss the experience and leadership that Antoine Winfield brought to the team, and that shows when the team breaks down in coverage.
- Special Teams – Grade: B+
The bulk of this grade is going to kick returner Cordarrelle Patterson and punt returner Marcus Sherels. Statistically, Patterson is the best kick return man in the league this year, with the highest average return (35.2 yards) and the most touchdowns (2). Sherels has also added a touchdown on a punt return. This grade takes a bit of a hit because of the play of both Blair Walsh and Jeff Locke. Locke struggled in the first game of the year, but has since found his rhythm punting. Walsh has been dealing with a hamstring injury and has not been as accurate as last season because of that. Special Teams is one of the strong parts of this team and should continue to be one for many years to come.