Improved run defense
The Vikings run defense a season ago wasn’t what it was in years past. In 2017, Minnesota finished second in the NFL against the run and last year, their run defense fell all the way to 17th. in the league
There were plenty of reasons for the decline. The first was that Linval Joseph wasn’t healthy. He ended up having knee surgery late in the season and he just wasn’t his dominating self who routinely shut down the opposing offense’s rushing attack.
The Vikings brought back Shamar Stephen in the 2019 offseason and he was very disappointing during his first year back with the team. Stephen recorded just 21 tackles and he was easily pushed around by opposing offensive lines.
That was the problem in 2019. Instead of imposing their will, both Joseph and Stephen were getting overpowered and pushed back. This caused Minnesota’s linebackers to have blockers in their faces and it didn’t allow them to have clear paths to the opposing running backs. It resulted in the Vikings run defense allowing 111.7 yards on the ground per game in 2019.
Minnesota attempted to rectify this problem in free agency this offseason as they went out and signed the “Juggernaut”, Michael Pierce. His job has been one thing and one thing only during his pro career and that is to shut down opposing rushing attacks.
Pierce did just that a season ago with the Baltimore Ravens, as his presence helped the team’s defense finish seventh in the NFL against the run, allowing just over 100 yards per game on the ground.
An improved run defense will help the Vikings out on many levels in 2020. It will help get the defense off the field sooner and keep them fresh throughout each game. It will also force teams to throw the ball more, which could lead to an increase in sacks for both Danielle Hunter and Ifeadi Odenigbo and an increase in interceptions for the secondary.
Those sacks and interceptions could lead to more wins, which would make Minnesota have a better 2020 season than many expect.