Breaking Down the Vikings’ Defensive Personnel After Week 3


We’re three weeks into the Mike Zimmer defensive makeover and great progress has already been made.

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The Vikings were dominating on defense week 1 against the Rams, weak in week 2 against the Patriots (though it never helps your D when your QB gets picked off four times) and very strong after a poor beginning week 3 against the Saints.

We know Zimmer’s scheme is taking hold, but where does the personnel stand after week 3? A quick break down:

Potentially Elite

Harrison Smith – The safety has rebounded well from an injury-riddled 2013. He’s made impact plays in all three games. He seems perfect for Zimmer’s scheme which asks his safeties to do pretty much everything. He could contend for All-Pro.

Rookies exceeding expectations

Anthony Barr – Barr still has a lot of improving to do in certain areas but he’s shown that he’s not overwhelmed. In fact, he’s probably been the Vikings’ second-best defensive player this year. And he will only get better.

Starters living up to expectations

Linval Joseph – Had a really good game week 1, has been nondescript since then. You don’t expect him to light up the stat sheet.

Captain Munnerlyn – He’s been everything we expected: a hard-nosed cornerback who will mix it up. He may have mixed it up a little too much on Sunday against the Saints, but that’s a matter of opinion. He’s not a great player, but he’s a good solid one.

Starters treading water

Jasper Brinkley – We knew he was a marginal starter going in, so we shouldn’t be surprised that he’s performed like a marginal starter.

Brian Robison – He was never going to have the same statistical impact in Zimmer’s scheme that he did in the old scheme. He’s doing his job out there but that’s about it.

Sharrif Floyd – Looked good against the Rams but injuries have slowed him up.

Everson Griffen – Looked dominating at times in the Rams game but has been just okay since then. His contract means people will expect more.

Chad Greenway – Had good games against the Rams and Patriots, then got hurt and was not good against the Saints. Zimmer admitted he should not have let Greenway play against New Orleans.

Mixed results

Josh Robinson – His interception against the Rams turned that whole game. He made a couple of notably terrible plays against the Saints. One step up, one step back for Robinson. Let’s hope he can begin making net progress.

Role players getting it done

Tom Johnson – Has been a good part-time defensive tackle. Nothing to complain about.

Gerald Hodges – He’s been making some plays. He’ll get more snaps with Greenway hurt. He may be the primary Will linebacker soon.

Shamar Stephen – The rookie has looked good in rotational duty. A nice find by Rick Spielman and Mike Zimmer.

Corey Wootton – He’s had a few moments. Another good solid role player picked up by Spielman and Zim.

Invisible men

Audie Cole – Got a few snaps against the Saints but has clearly fallen behind Jasper Brinkley and Gerald Hodges.

Brandon Watts – Inactive.

Andrew Sendejo – No particular impact defensively.

Scott Crichton – Another guy who has gotten minimal chance.

Michael Mauti – Out of the picture at linebacker.

Antone Exum – Rookie still learning his spot, could end up in the mix at safety before it’s over.

Marcus Sherels – We didn’t expect to see him much as a corner.

Mystery man

Shaun Prater – The Vikings said they were trying him at safety but he hasn’t seen the field since the season started. Could be they are hoping to get him ready and then use him at safety down the road.

Intriguing player whose role may soon expand

Jabari Price – They seem to like this guy and I bet we’ll see him more as the season goes on. He’s scrappy but needs to work on his tackling.

Reasons to worry

Robert Blanton – This GIF says it all. He is not a starting-quality NFL player. The Vikings need to move on from him as soon as possible.

Xavier Rhodes – His bad rookie habit of grabbing on has resurfaced. I guess we have to resign ourselves to the fact that this guy is a slow learner. Let’s hope by mid-season he’s begun figuring it out. His tackling has not been good. For some reason I just don’t think he’s a Zimmer corner. Maybe he can become one with enough time and work.