Fatal flaw? I don’t think so
Brent Sobleski wrote a piece over on Bleacher Report highlighting every team’s fatal flaw in his opinion. For your Minnesota Vikings, he surmises that the fatal flaw is the defensive line. He points out the 3-technique spot, that was Sharrif Floyd’s, is a huge question mark and major point of failure. As we all know, there was some sort of nerve damage that took place during Floyd’s last routine knee surgery. Sharrif still hasn’t got his quad to fire properly and has not been cleared for full practice. There is a good chance that he will spend the season on the PUP.
The Minnesota Vikings did however, actively work to improve the position by first getting Datone Jones and then Will Sutton in free agency. Jones comes from the Packers where he was utilized as an outside linebacker and their 3-4 defense, but for the Vikings, he will move to the traditional defensive end role, or most likely inside as the 3-technique tackle. Will Sutton is another person that is more suited to a 4-3 defense but was stuck in a 3-4 defense in Chicago. He may not be the pass rusher we all want, but he is definitely the run stuffer and extremely hard to move off the line of scrimmage.
Minnesota continued its effort to build up the defensive line in the draft as well. They first drafted Jaleel Johnson who can play both the 1-technique and the 3-technique positions along with Ifeadi Odenigbo, another defensive end that can slide into the interior in pass rushing situations.
The Vikings presently have 17 defensive lineman assigned on the 90 man roster. I would expect that no more than nine are kept once final cut downs are completed, and the Turk makes his way through Winter Park. I suspect that Sharrif Floyd will spend the entire season on the PUP and not count. That should leave us with Everson Griffen, Linval Joseph, Danielle Hunter, Brian Robison, Datone Jones, Will Sutton, Jaleel Johnson, Tom Johnson, and either Stephen Weatherly or Ifeadi Odenigbo to make the final nine. I do see a situation where Ifeadi gets shuffled to the practice squad.
Of that bunch, I don’t see a true all-around 3-technique like Sharrif promised to be, but I do see opportunity. In this case, I can see coaches Mike Zimmer, George Edwards, and especially Andre Patterson mixing and matching players to optimize their skill set in particular situations. The Vikings tend to use a platoon type system with defensive lineman where they shuffle players in and out to keep legs fresh and to maximize effectiveness in different phases of the game.
It will all depend on which plays are expected on the offense. An example would be if were going and I run heavy defense you might look at Griffin, Hutton, Joseph, and Brian Robison. For passing downs, you would see Griffin, Datone Jones, Robison, and Hunter. Plus, the coaches could get creative in moving many of these pieces around at any time to disguise stunts and blitzes against the opposing offense. When you have a slew of defense end types that can also move to interior positions, it opens up opportunities for messing with opposing quarterbacks and offensive coordinators. The way Mike Zimmer plays defense and gets coaches and quarterbacks to second-guess themselves with the double A gap blitz alignment, along with blitzing a corner or safety, the added flexibility on the defensive line adds third layer to that confusion that can be extremely successful at making this defense truly elite. I see a “mix and match and screw with their heads” motto developing.
I do not see this position as flawed like Sobleski did. I see it as an opportunity to excel and make this unit the best in the NFL. What do you think? What effective combinations and rotations can you envision?