Last Year’s Vikings Were Good Tacklers, Poor Blitzers


It’s interesting every year to have a glance at the signature stats from Pro Football Focus and see if the numbers they’ve compiled jibe at all with what our own eyes told us during the course of the season.

More from Minnesota Vikings News

PFF has been focusing on defense the last couple days and this is what they tell us about the Vikings in their first year under Mike Zimmer. See if you agree with these results based on what you saw:

  • The Vikings were one of the best tackling teams in the NFL both on defense and special teams.
  • The Vikings were not especially frequent blitzers and when they did blitz they weren’t particularly effective.
  • The Vikings were very efficient at rushing the passer with four men.

The PFF tackling efficiency numbers for the Vikings rank them 7th overall with 108 missed tackles on 1109 defensive snaps.

credit: Pro Football Focus

The Vikes also finished 7th in special teams tackling with 14 missed tackles on the season. PFF notes that only the Browns and Vikings finished in the top ten in both defensive and special teams tackling.

In terms of individual players, the Vikings had several stand-out tacklers. Robert Blanton finished third among safeties with just 4 missed tackles in 896 snaps. Both Xavier Rhodes (3 misses in 975 snaps) and Captain Munnerlyn (5 misses in 1007 snaps) finished in the top ten among cornerbacks. Jasper Brinkley finished second at inside linebacker with 4 missed tackles in 439 snaps, while Gerald Hodges finished 9th at OLB with 6 missed tackles in 454 snaps.

On the flip side, a pair of Vikings linebackers showed up at the bottom of the PFF tackling rankings. Chad Greenway came in as the 8th-worst tackler at OLB with 12 misses in 672 snaps, while Anthony Barr ranked dead last with a whopping 22 missed tackles in 737 snaps.

The stats show us that the Vikings blitzed 28.6% of the time, good for 18th in the NFL. However, their blitzes saw them only achieving a 33.3 Pass Rush Productivity number (an explanation of PFF’s Pass Rush Productivity stat), ranking them 21st in the NFL. That was actually down from their ranking of 16th in blitzing productivity in 2013.

In situations where the Vikings did NOT bring extra men on the blitz, their productivity was actually very solid. Their 25.8 non-blitzing Pass Rush Productivity number ranked sixth in the league. None of the Vikings’ linemen finished high in Pass Rush Productivity overall, with Everson Griffen leading the team at edge rusher and Tom Johnson setting the pace on the interior.

So what conclusions can we draw from all these numbers? Here are a few:

1. Mike Zimmer and his staff did a pretty good job coaching tackling technique, especially to the DBs.

2. Anthony Barr is still raw in a lot of ways. Once he learns to stay under control he’ll be a terrific player. Last year he was operating almost purely on physical talent.

3. Chad Greenway is done. And Gerald Hodges is the obvious guy to replace him.

4. The Vikings need to find DBs and linebackers who can get home on the blitz more often. Anthony Barr will no doubt help those blitz efficiency numbers go up as he learns his position.

5. Jasper Brinkley is not a total waste of time. But they can still do better at MLB.

Do these numbers match what your own eyes told you? Do they change your ideas about the Vikings’ potential draft and free agency strategies?

I still think Robert Blanton is only an okay player. I still think Captain Munnerlyn was a clown for most of the year. And I still wish they could find a better Mike than Brinkley.

So no, these numbers don’t change much for me. Secondary and linebacker are still positions that need to be targeted.

More from The Viking Age