The folks at ESPN have a story in their In$ider section that ranks all 32 NFL defenses, as well as ranks all of the position groups within those defenses. As you'd expect from ESPN, the amount of respect they have for the Minnesota Vikings is minimal, at best.
The four-letter rates the Vikings' defense at #29 out of 32 defenses in the league. Here's what they have to say about the group as a whole.
This offseason, the Vikings took some steps forward and a few back. Two of their best players on defense will be new additions Captain Munnerlyn and Linval Joseph. Munnerlyn was the only cornerback last year to be targeted more than 60 times and not allow a single touchdown. The addition of rookie pass-rusher Anthony Barr is also intriguing.
But the Vikes lost longtime stars Jared Allen and Kevin Williams, and they let go of Erin Henderson, their best linebacker. That linebacking corps could be quite weak as a result. They have gotten younger on defense and have a few pieces of the puzzle, but they still need to find out if some of their young players are a fit to complete the picture.
Calling Erin Henderson the "team's best linebacker" kind of tests the credibility of the rest of the rating, but hey. . .they're not my rankings, I guess. Then again, even if he was, that doesn't mean that he was any good.
As far as the individual unit rankings, the Vikings don't have a group that rates in the top half of the league, according to ESPN. They have the secondary ranked at #17. . .which, when you consider that last season they probably would have been around #43, is a pretty decent jump. They also have the team's edge rushers ranked at #17. The interior line is ranked 23rd out of 32 teams, and the linebacking corps is slotted at #31, with only the Arizona Cardinals. . .Minnesota's opponent this Saturday at TCF Bank Stadium. . .being rated lower.
I'm not sure if ESPN is of the impression that the Vikings are still going to be playing the same defensive scheme that they have over the past few years or so, but I think it's kind of silly to have them rated so low after the improvements they made this off-season. Then again, I'm biased. . .but I have a strange feeling that Mike Zimmer, George Edwards, and company are going to prove a lot of people wrong this season.