Upgrading the defense.

TLDR: "it results in fewer points allowed to be great at denying redzone visits than being great inside the redzone. Vikings defense were 6th best in 4th down conversion success and average in 3rd down conversion rates despite being horrid in yards per play allowed. Vikings were 10th in red zone trips allowed per game but towards the bottom in redzone scoring allowed and they also gave up too many big plays and big plays for TDs (non redzone scoring).. They have a lot to build on, and whatever changes could limit the big plays and do better at 2nd and 3rd down could reduce our points per play a lot and move us up to a great defense—or at least average with the least amount of effort/cost. Upgrading the defense requires understanding how those variables are determined, what determines them, and what changes are most economical to improve them whether that is coach, player, playcalling, or run efficiency and burning up the clock."


What is worth more, forcing a punt, or being excellent in the redzone? What is worth more—denying trips to the redzone or excelling in the redzone?

it may be possible to be far better or worse than any team ever has been at any one stat, but as a baseline we will use the typical numbers. Meaning, elite defense in the redzone is the stats equal to the best available team in the NFL.

I ran these numbers and concluded it’s worth a far bigger change to points allowed in denying trips to the redzone altogether. The best redzone team vs an average 3.1 trips to the redzone allows 3 points allowed fewer than the worst team. But having the least red zone trips adds up to allowing 8 points fewer provided you don’t sacrifice big plays for TD outside of the redzone in the process. (More than 8 points but I don’t know how to use more than and fewer in the same sentance). In other words the worst team at red zone trips allowed gives up more than 8 points a game more than the best team. I didn’t count field goals since it wasn’t clear from the numbers if denying a redzone trip lead to a FG or punt and it isn’t clear if a team that does better allows kore points via FG. I can say that the best offenses go without punting for almost drives more than the worst team. You get roughly 12 posessions per game, so 3 additional offensive scoring posessions or denying 3 on defense is worth quite a bit of points compared to other measurements.

While turnovers deny a drive, they are not predictable Year to year and have a lot to do with the offensive blunders and tipped balls by chance, and there isn’t that large of a difference per game to matter as much as denying 1st down conversions and redzone trips.

All of this does not mean the Vikings shouldn’t invest in whatever contributes to goal line defense, just that if the price is equal to produce an elite unit between the choice of denying conversions and denying redzone trips vs "bend but don’t break" and improving redzone defense, they should choose denying conversions and redzone trips.

With that being said, they have to know the numbers as to what a redzone trip is worth to them specifically and to do that they need to know what percentage of TDs are allowed from each yardline per play and from that they can calculate per play. This way they can eliminate bias. It may be that redzone defense is more a function of whether or not the opponent has 1st and goal on the 10 or 1st and goal on the 4, and as such the numbers may have more to do with how well defense is at denying 1st and goal inside the 5. By figuring out what each yardline and goal to go is worth they can work backwards from TD percentage (if TD percentage is below 3/7 a FG is worth more & count that 4th and goal as 3 points rather than a fraction of a TD) to figure out what 3rd, 2nd and 1st and goal are worth and work backward from that to determine what every other down and distance is worth as a function of all the yards before it. Then the Vikings can calculate or estimate what variables relate to producing stops at a higher rate or figure out which coverages and schemes and players and weaknesses result in what rate of conversion or big plays. From there they can try to make changes provided the variables are consistent game to game and have a comfortable margin of error.

that is how the Vikings can evaluate what they need to do on defense whether they are looking at playcalling vs position groups or player personnel.

Ideally they can identify the smallest changes responsible for the biggest positive changes and make enough of them to make progress.

Any coaching change should be a function of all the other changes that are best to make and whether or not we are giving up big plays as a result of adjustments or scheme and whether or not it is correctable. Until we really see how everything goes together, we can’t conclude anything. For instance, my intuition says that this same defense probably would be one of the best with 2014 MVP JJ Watt added on the DL. The consistent pressure plus splash pressure from Zadarius and Hunter would completely transform the defense. It’s a moot point as such a change is not available and it may be that the best change includes a coaching and possibly even scheme change.

at the very least, when in doubt you shake the box until you get a result to you favor. If you have well below average outcomes, there’s nothing wrong with shaking the box or rolling the dice to see if you get a better outcome. If you are average there isn’t a lot of cost and if you are above average there is. But there may be a lot of under appreciated variables that contributed to that outcome and it may be correctable. And if so and if we can produce a top 15 unit on offense or better without changing the coach, we should. That much is obvious but what isn’t obvious is whether or not we can do so with personal changes alone. That requires a lot of detailed analysis and making assumptions and guesses about those assumptions to make the decision either with the best chance of producing improvement, or the highest chance at producing outlier outcomes. Since only 1/32 teams win the Super Bowl, taking the decisions most likely to produce "chaos" until we get an outlier, may be the best approach.

At the very least, the chaos of the 2022 defense like an engineer stressing a system until the point of failure was a successful test in identifying the points of weakness. And if all of those can be corrected, we may get something different entirely.

You wont be able to appreciate the following fact until you see enough examples, but it’s difficult to tell the difference between a thing and the opposite of the thing. If we were cheering on Thomas Edison in real time we’d say "15,000 ways to not screw in a lightbulb and counting, this is absurd, we need to fire Edison as an inventor and go back to candle light", but the other perspective is he only needs to find one way that works, he methodically is testing the system and if there’s a solution to be found he’s going to find it"

Whether accidentally or on purpose, whatever system Kwesi was testing has been stressed to the breaking point. It produced an absurd 11-0 in close games most of them comeback games, and 13 wins while the other models projected us at 6 wins. Likely Kwesi delivered some performances that operated in the blindspots of those models with some of it luck (but it is highly unlikely all of it is) but came with a defense that had holes. It should be relatively easy to bid for "average" at whatever traditional metrics exist as teams can’t win a Super Bowl with "average".

we can make excuses. Dantzler, Harry, Booth, Evans, Cine, etc missing a number of games and will be back.

switch to 3-4

new coaching staff on both sides

new head coach

team still generated turnovers and made stops when we needed in the 4th Q often enough to get us wins.

but the fact is we should have enough data to see where we are the worst in and try to get closer to average in those categories, or find other ones.

it should be an incredibly easy job to do and still maintain whatever "magic" we seemed to have when it mattered, particularly on offense. And if you get a closer to "average" defense and continue pushing on whatever made us great on offense, we should get a closer to tremendous outcome if we can improve in enough of these areas.

There was a movie based on the childhood of Josh Waitzkin before he won back to back Junior chess champions called "Searching for Bobby Fisher". By teaching him the end game first, a young Joshua could connect the middle game to the winnable endgame whereas most players would learn the openings and then middle game and had no idea why those strategies were solid. Joshua could master the end game and then see how to create it from the middle game and then the early game just required not making any mistakes. This "upside down learning" is a powerful tool.

and the 2022 Vikings were 4th quarter masters. If they were a golf game they could sink any putt in 1.

What we need from them now is to "get on in regs". For non-golfers out there, that means hitting the long iron into the green so that the "chipping" becomes unnecessary. If they can prevent the redzone trip, they don’t need to excel in the redzone as much. The Vikings also need to realize they may not always be able to sink every putt after missing the green entirely on the chip and their 2nd terrible chip and long putt to salvage bogey may not always be enough to get the win. We also have not seen them have to make a lot of tap-ins but it’s just assumed that if they can win from behind that they can win with a lead. Can they play with a big lead and protect it? If they can just be average in the 3rd quarter they will not have to play as well in the 4th quarter. They do have to at least become halfway competent in some areas. They are excellent in enough areas that can allow for wins but I view it as a great position to be in to be dead last in a lot of areas also. It is much easier to improve from dead last than from average. Average is the tendency of all extremes. So hopefully the offensive success was no fluke and on paper it looks to be the case. Jefferson has been a consistent performer and Hockenson is too talented not to perform well if given favorable looks. Thielen and Osborne can make teams pay if they are ignored and Cook can make big plays if needed. Cousins has gotten better every year and is looking elite.

it seems like the Vikings on defense just either have to do better on 1st and 2nd downs to create 3rd and long or become closer to elite on 3rd down and everything else will work.

As a team—they are clutch at 4th quarter putting, suck at chipping 3rd quarter but if they can connect that long iron in the 3rd and 3rd quarter they will be great.

alternatively, we are 4th in redzone visits per game 8th in redzone scoring and 11th in yards per play. Surprisingly our offense was not good at 4th down conversion rate, we’re good at 3rd down conversion rate. I don’t know if those are fair if they don’t measure compatible situations.

On defense we were 6th in 4th down conversion, just average on 3rd down conversion allowed, which is probably a plus given how bad our defense is at giving up chunk plays and yards. I don’t have 2nd and first down data but yards per play allowed was 30th suggesting giving up 1st downs on 1st and 2nd down and giving up too many big plays.

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.