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Brian Flores Guiding Vikings Defense with Intensity Despite Offseason Physicality Limits
“Exotic. They’re exotic. A lot of coverages, a lot of movement from the fronts. I’m not even in there, and I can see it,” Vikings receiver K.J. Osborn said Tuesday. “Disguising defenses and different leverages – man, zone, all different types of things.
“We’re only on practice day two, but we would need a full-week game plan to do all the stuff they’re doing already,” Osborn added with a laugh. “But it’s exciting to see that they’re giving us a challenge.”
Running back Alexander Mattison, whom the Vikings signed to an extension this spring, called the defense “intense.”
He and the Vikings backfield already are getting a run for their money, Mattison noted.
“Those ‘backers and the way they’re moving around and the way they’re lining up out of the gate is intense, and it’s going to make us a better football team,” he said. “I’d love to see it [be a problem] for other teams. It’s got to be a problem, and for us, it’s going to make us a lot better on offense.
Day 1 yesterday, the way they came out, it was extremely intense.”
New Vikings Defensive Coordinator Brian Flores smiled Wednesday when he heard the words “intense” and “exotic” had been used to describe the unit.
“Mattison’s pretty intense, too,” he quipped.
Flores acknowledged the competitive nature he’s already seen from the Vikings defense, and he emphasized that he and his coaching staff are installing an aggressive system and mindset.
There may be four-plus months before Minnesota plays a regular-season game, but setting the tone early is important.
“Building an identity is a big part of the defense in this league. It’s early, but that’s part of it, too,” Flores said. “Every time we step on the practice field – ‘What is our identity? What are people going to say about us?’ Not that we’re worried about that, but what do we want to look like? That’s a lot of the conversation that’s had.
“We’ll continue to have it, and we’ll continue to work to put that product on the field that we’ve talked about,” he added.
Second-year safety Lewis Cine loves Flores’ approach.
“If we want to be a championship team, we’ve got to practice like a championship team does. That’s kind of the mindset and mentality going forward. I like that,” Cine said. “I mean, respectfully and humbly, I’ve won everywhere I’ve gone, so I don’t really plan to stop it here.”
Flores urges intensity but also stresses the importance of practicing within the league’s offseason guidelines, of course, and in a way that keeps teammates safe.
Marcus Davenport told media members following Tuesday’s practice that he’s having to “learn the pace” as OTAs get underway.
“We’re trying to take care of each other,” Davenport said. “We kind of brought it. But that was our fault. So we’re adjusting. They handled it quite well.”
Left tackle Christian Darrisaw spoke for the offense in confirming Davenport’s comments.
“It’s crazy. We’re only on Day 2 of OTAs, and B-Flo’s already bringing looks you’d think we’d be getting on day 15,” Darrisaw laughed, shaking his head. “But it’s only going to help us get better, and I’m excited just to watch those boys fly around when they’re playing a different opponent.
“Those looks, we weren’t seeing those last year. We’d get into games and teams would run out a certain defense, and we were negatively affected,” Darrisaw continued. “Now we’re getting to practice against it every day, and it’s just not one certain [system] like 4-3, 3-4. He brings it all.”
Flores loves coaching the details for every defender on Minnesota’s roster, regardless of how any became Vikings.
“We teach every guy the same,” he said. “I’ve told our guys this – I don’t care where they came from. By what means they got to this team, first round, free agent, undrafted. When you come here, you put in the work, you find a way to learn and apply what you’ve learned … you’ll have an opportunity.”
As Flores prepares for his first season in Minnesota, he’s grateful for a talented and creative coaching staff that includes Mike Siravo (inside linebackers), Mike Smith (outside linebackers/pass rush specialist) and Daronte Jones (defensive backs) among others.
“It’s collaborative in a lot of ways. I think they understand my nature, as far as wanting to be aggressive, but not reckless,” Flores said. “I think we’re all trying to find out what our guys do best and put them in positions to do what they do well.”
Brian Flores is one of the NFL’s foremost proponents of the zero blitz, which will be a big change for the team. Under Ed Donatell last season, Minnesota sent six or more pass-rushers on the third-fewest passing attempts, ahead of only the Rams and Jets. And only the Seahawks played fewer Cover-0 snaps than the Vikings did last season. So, when we look at the Vikings’ defensive personnel, how does that work?
Overall, the 2021 Dolphins played the NFL’s eighth-most single-high coverage, the NFL’s lowest rate of two-high, and they had the league’s highest blitz rate. Flores wasn’t with the Dolphins last season, but defensive coordinator Josh Boyer was basically running a Flores defense. 38% of their defensive snaps had a blitz, and there will be multiple fronts – 3-4-4 as base and 3-3-5 as the nickel, hut there should be all kinds of stuff. They added Marcus Davenport and Dean Lowry to the front, though losing Dalvin Tomlinson to the Browns is a big hit.
Outside of Harrison Phillips, the secondary is still a major question. The addition of Byron Murphy could be helpful if they get the good version of Murphy, but this seems like a defense that will have to be a lot about scheme until the execution catches up.
In this week’s episode of “The Xs and Os with Greg Cosell,” Greg gets into why Donatell’s schemes were a problem, and what Flores will do to fix it in the context of a defense that is still under development:
“You’re going to see schemed pressure, which you did not see at all under Ed Donatell. Nor did you see a lot of versatility on the back end in how they played. They did not play a ton of different coverage concepts. They played a ton of two-shell… I hate to use the word ‘soft,’ because Ed Donatell would never think, ‘Oh, we played soft,’ But they didn’t do a lot of different things. My guess is, opposing offenses felt that they were not very difficult to scheme against.
“They’ve got some questions in terms of personnel on defense, though. Especially at cornerback. [We’ll see] how Brian Flores feels about playing with a lot of pressure — which he likes to do; he’s an aggressive guy by nature — when your cornerbacks are unproven.”
Yes, it is really going to come down to the cornerbacks and there are a lot of reasons to be seriously concerned unless you have drank too much sizzurp.
The Vikings Got Good News Regarding a Potential Dalvin Cook Trade
The report by Adam Schefter of ESPN suggests that Ekeler will get $2 million added to his deal in incentives, and his contract will now expire at the end of the 2023 season, allowing him to enter free agency next offseason.
The dudes here speculate that because Austin Ekeler is staying with the Chargers, Cook is now the top back who is available.
Dallas Cowboys: RECEIVE Dalvin Cook
Minnesota Vikings: RECEIVE 2024 Fourth-Round Pick, 2024 Seventh-Round Pick
Dallas Cowboys Receive: Dalvin Cook
Minnesota Vikings Receive: 2024 3rd Round Pick, 2024 7th Round Pick
Kansas City could offer their 2024 fourth and seventh-round picks to Minnesota in exchange for the four-time Pro Bowler.
A middle-round draft selection—perhaps a few Day 3 selections?
Potential NFL Trade Packages for Players Who Need a Fresh Start
Colts Get: WR Mike Evans
Buccaneers Get: 2024 second-round pick, 2024 third-round pick
I would love to get Mike Evans. Maybe KJ Osborn and a 2nd round pick can get it done? The contract will need to be extended and would be expensive.
It can be done.
PFF’s Trevor Sikkema projects Vikings to miss playoffs in 2023 season
Booooooooooooooooo! He must be from Alaska eh?
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