Week 2 Review - Defense

Like many of you, I'm disappointed that the Vikings managed to let another winnable game get away from them. It's going to be tough to dig out of an 0-2 hole, including 0-2 in the division. I've been thinking about the game all day, and Pro Football Focus has just released their player grades for the game. While their assessment matches my thoughts mostly, there are a few surprises. I thought I'd start by highlighting some facts:

  1. Marvin Mitchell is the starting WLB, but he only played 24 out of a possible 67 snaps.
  2. Desmond Bishop saw 2 snaps.
  3. The defense spent a lot of time in the nickel, as Josh Robinson and Chris Cook played every snap and Xavier Rhodes played 41 snaps.
  4. Williams got 41 snaps to Sharrif Floyd's 24.
  5. While Letroy Guion is listed as the "starter", he only saw 21 snaps, while Fred Evans played 30.
  6. Everson Griffen saw 39 defensive snaps, with 2/3rds of them coming as a pass rusher.

The following defensive players graded out in the negative overall by PFF:

Letroy Guion (-0.2)
Erin Henderson (-0.6)
Chad Greenway (-0.3)
Jamarca Sanford (-1.0)
Fred Evans (-0.9)
Shariff Floyd (-0.6)
Desmond Bishop (-1.0)

None of those are remarkably bad, and most are pretty much average. A rating by PFF of -1 to 1 is essentially an average rating. Anything greater than one or negative one, moves a player into above average or below average territory. So, while these are all negative grades, they are still essentially average. Digging in a little deeper, Shariff Floyd scored the only truly bad rating of the whole defense, and that was in run defense (-1.2), but he made up for it a little by having a positive grade in pass rush. It's alarming that Bishop was graded out negatively despite only playing 2 snaps. I remember 1 of those snaps specifically, as he whiffed big time on a tackle of Matt Forte. He read the play correctly and shot the gap, but had a bad angle. He got his hand on Forte, but couldn't bring him down. Forte shot forward for a first down at the goal line as a result.

The following defensive players graded out in the positive overall by PFF:

Brian Robison (3.1)
Kevin Williams (0.5)
Jared Allen (3.2)
Marvin Mitchell (0.4)
Josh Robinson (0.4)
Harrison Smith (0.5)
Chris Cook (0.6)
Everson Griffen (0.4)
Xavier Rhodes (1.9)
AJ Jefferson (0.0)

The list of positive grades is definitely longer than the negative ones, except that there are three standouts which I highlighted in bold. Rhodes also scored an above average score in pass coverage, which is great to see from our young rookie, and he generally had an excellent game. I remember the tipped pass to Alshon Jeffrey that would have surely been a TD if not for his amazing athletic leap to get his fingertips on the ball. And of course, Jared Allen and Robison combined for that sack/fumble turnover that led to a defensive TD. Those highlights on defense come through in the PFF ratings for sure.

There was some criticism of the coaching staff by fans here at the DN for having Marvin Mitchell in there as the starter over Desmond Bishop, and Erin Henderson as the MLB. Among ILB that saw at least 50% of their team's snaps last week, Henderson ranked 22nd overall out of 37 possible ILB (20th in coverage and 21st in run defense). While that's not very good, it puts him right in the middle of the pack for Week 2 performance and it's certainly an improvement over last week (he was 39th out of a possible 41 overall in Week 1). I'm willing to give Henderson the benefit of the doubt and let him grow into a new position for a few more weeks before I'm ready to simply toss him on the scrap pile. Let's not forget that he was an above average WLB the past couple years, and is essentially playing a more expanded role of what he did last year, as he spent a lot of time at MLB in nickel situations last season.

Speaking of the nickel, I don't fault the coaching staff for playing Marvin Mitchell. He saw about 1/3rd of the snaps as the defense spent most of the time in the Nickel with three corners on the field. Xavier Rhodes was on the field for the other 2/3rds of the snaps as the outside corner, while Josh Robinson moved into the slot. Based on personnel, this makes a lot of sense. While Bishop comes with a strong background, he looks rusty to me, and his PFF grades are bearing that out (albeit with a small sample size). We might see more Bishop later on as he gets more in game shape and adapts to the defensive scheme and play-calling, but Mitchell didn't really have a bad game, so much as he isn't making much of an impact either.

Generally our defense, while making some improvements in getting pressure on the QB from Week 1 to Week 2, generally regressed in most other areas, and allowed 31 points. Check it out:

Week 1

Week 2




QB Hits



QB Hurries



Batted Passes



Missed Tackles



Defensive Stops



They had more missed tackles, less defensive stops and less batted down passes at the line of scrimmage this week than last week. While they allowed less yardage generally to Chicago, they still looked sloppy overall. And at the end of the day, when we needed a defensive stop late in the 4th quarter to maintain a 6 point lead...the defense couldn't deliver.

A couple of things are clear to me after 2 weeks watching the defense against familiar divisional foes.

  1. Erin Henderson is struggling at MLB, but it's still early. I'm not ready to give up on him just yet.
  2. Desmond Bishop is not the same Bishop from 2 years ago after his torn hamstring. But, he still has the mind for the game. Hopefully his physical talent can get him back on the field sooner than later.
  3. Marvin Mitchell is a league average option AT BEST at WLB. Hopefully he won't make too many mistakes that cost us games. Perhaps Bishop is better, but perhaps not.
  4. Jared Allen isn't showing signs of slowing down at age 31.
  5. Chad Greenway is showing signs of slowing down at age 30.
  6. Xavier Rhodes is showing a lot of promise at CB, and I'm excited about his future in purple.
  7. Chris Cook is overrated.
  8. Harrison Smith is currently our best player in the secondary, and a Smith/Rhodes tandem could be lethal a few years from now.
  9. We still desperately need a starting level NT.

We are likely stuck with what we've got for the rest of the year, but our defense seems to be in a state of flux right now. While our team as a whole just went through a 2-year rebuilding process, it looks like GM Rick Spielman spent too much time overhauling Special Teams (Walsh, Locke, Patterson) and the Secondary (Robinson, Smith, Rhodes, Jefferson) while ignoring other areas (Linebacker, Defensive Line). And we're paying the price. Spending a 5th round pick on a punter when we could have addressed LB or DT instead was stupid. Mark was right. Locke should have been the best damn punter in the history of the league for a 5th round draft pick, and so far, Locke scored a -4.3 from PFF in week 1 and an average 1.0 in week 2.

This FanPost was created by a registered user of The Daily Norseman, and does not necessarily reflect the views of the staff of the site. However, since this is a community, that view is no less important.

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