Envisioning Zimmers’ Viking Defense
Well nobody else has written this article, so I guess I’ll give it a go…
First off, up front, where every play starts, our DLine has certainly gotten a lot younger with the departures of Jared Allen and Kevin Williams. While I will miss their character and senses of humor, it was about the right time to move on to more long term solutions. In addition to younger, it certainly seems as if we have gotten larger and stronger up front. Linval Joseph is a HUGE man and unlike Phat Pat, I am talking more about across his shoulders and around his chest than where the beers tend to add up just above the belt (see OTA photo below.) His consistent averages over the past 3 years of 55 tackles and 3 sacks per year are actually very solid when you consider that he is the first line of defense, and a stop by him likely means less than 2 yards were allowed. Check out his secret superstar article from 2012…(link below)
Next to him, it looks as though Floyd will be given every opportunity to prove his draft slot value and we’ll just have to hope for now that he can live up to his Kevin Williams comparisons. Evans is a decent player who is likely better suited to a backup/rotational role than starter and may surprise as such. I think Shamar Stephen has a good chance to make the team as a huge athlete with plenty of upside and frame for adding more muscle, leaving a stiff competition between Baker, Johnson and the others for perhaps one more spot.
“All game long he overpowered an undermanned Green Bay offensive line to the tune of an astounding seven defensive stops against the running game. Spot starter Dietrich-Smith yielded five of those but Joseph also took T.J. Lang to task in limiting the Green Bay ground game to a mere 2.0 yards per carry between the tackles…
When it counted most, like that nationally broadcasted game against Green Bay and particularly in the Giants’ surprising Super Bowl run, he delivered in bunches. With an overall grade of +7.0 he was our highest-graded defensive tackle for the playoffs. In spite of recording zero sacks, he managed more total pressures than any other defensive tackle and his four stops were the most at his position in the playoffs.”
Keeping Griffen happened before Zimmer was hired, and would thus seem to be more of a Spielman signing than a Zimmer guy, but I think he fits the profile of bigger/stronger too. In fact, looking at our Defensive End group, we have 4 guys who are all very similar in size coming in at least 6’3” tall and 260-273 lbs. They all also seem to share similar game style descriptors such as, high motor, strong at the point of attack, powerful, explosive burst and/or tough. Looks like Robison and Griffen will start, but that we will likely see plenty of Crichton and Wooton as part of our pass rushing rotation. Tom Johnson might get the nod for a spot as a flexible guy who can play some power D-end and get push from DT on passing downs.
What does all that meat add up to? I foresee a return to a top ten unit vs. the running game, with a focus on disrupting opponent’s offenses right up front, before they can even get started. These bigger/stronger guys will try to control the front line by moving their blockers off of their intended angles and generally creating chaos at the line of scrimmage. This will hopefully enable our LBers to fill the gaps and directly attack whoever has the ball.
This is where our no.1 pick, Anthony Barr fits in so well. His size/speed/reach combination is completely ridiculous and with our muscle men up front moving would be blockers off of their game plan those traits should be put to good use whether he is rushing the QB or covering TEs and RBs. I think mondry over at vikingsmessageboard.com had the right idea when he typed:
I picture Barr as Zimmer’s secret weapon of mass disruption. He will likely be moved around more than one would expect of a strong side LBer, giving him opportunities to attack from different angles and create some hard hitting sacks when these surprises lead to open lanes and his size and speed add up to some serious momentum…2200 lbs worth! If you haven’t seen his sport science episode yet, it is well worth a watch!
“If our front 4 is getting good pressure, the RB or a TE might stay in to block . Barr will basically shadow the RB or TE in that case, if he stays in to block, then Barr becomes a pass rusher as his man in coverage already committed to blocking and he's free to rush the passer. If the back or TE releases then he'll follow him into coverage like normal and it's up to our front 4 or even a blitz from somewhere else to create pressure. On the flipside, Barr himself could still be blitzed as long as someone else on the backend can account for his coverage assignment.”
Sport Science: Anthony Barr - ESPN Video - ESPN
The combination of asking Greenway to do less and providing more help around him could be great for all involved. He isn’t the biggest or fastest, but he does possess good instincts and at this stage of his career is likely a good fit on the weak side where he’ll likely see less plays coming his way. He also has the experience needed to slide over to MLB on passing downs, and/or help cover what Barr leaves open by blitzing. Brinkley is not an every down backer, but has proven able to consistently stuff the run on early and short distance downs. Of the rest, Cole is the most intriguing to me as another, high-effort player with good instincts. We’ll likely keep 6 or 7 LBs though as you can never have too many Special Teamers in that size/speed range, and there are several guys with developmental potential like Hodges and Mauti.
On the back end, the return of Harrison Smith and addition of Captain at Nickel-back should help tremendously. I think we will see a lot more man, press coverage, and that style should suit Rhodes’ and Cox’s games very well while Robinson has also shown that he has the top end speed necessary to keep up with anybody on straight down the sideline routes. The idea here may be that they don’t have to cover their guy for 10+ seconds per play, as our “high motor” and “relentless” guys up front will get eventual if not immediate pressure on the passer. Decent pressure from the front five (DL+Barr) and good bump & run coverage from our CBs should, in theory, open up our Safeties to do their job sealing the back end and coming up to help stuff the run as needed.
Now let’s watch some Bengals highlights…2012:
What I’m seeing here is a whole lot of pressure (set to awesome attack music!) The line does seem to get pressure more by power and 2nd effort than with speed. There seems to be a boat load of rookie LBer no.55, Vontaze Burfict, attacking the passer, as well as some D-Back blitzes too. For the most part, they all seem to swat at the ball as they come in for the takedown…not a swing and a miss, but a punishing swat as part of wrapping up. This chaos along the LOS and attack mentality seems to lead to turnovers, and perhaps the best part!? There are plenty of highlights vs. lots of top offenses like the Pats, Broncos, Chargers and Eagles, showing the ability to match up and win vs. the best.
Last season, Zimmer’s Bengals Defense was #3 in total yards allowed, no.2 yards/play, no.2 third down conversions allowed, and #5 in the two most important defensive statistics: points allowed and time of possession. More specifically, VS. the Pass they allowed the 5th least yards while snagging the 5th most INTs and notching a 10th best 43 sacks. VS. the Run they also allowed the 5th least yards and 4th least TDs with only 6 rushing TDs allowed all season long!?! Now I know, the Vikings are not the Bengals, and it may take a bit of time to come together, but I think our defensive personnel stacks up pretty favorably with them on all levels but linebacker, where we just might be pleasantly surprised by Barr as the feature, Greenway as more of a sideshow and Brinkley/Cole stuffing any runs up the middle that get through to them.
All in all, I think we will see an aggressive, swarming, gang-tackling team defense that sometimes walks the line between big hits and big penalties. If our added strength and power up front can consistently do what I suspect their number one priority is, moving their blockers off their intended angles, we will be a very frustrating defense to play against. Hopefully that leads to more mistakes made by opposing offenses as our crowd gets loud and specially when the hits hurt more in the cold while playing 5 of our last 8 games outside, at “home” in TCF Bank Stadium!!
BAAAAHWOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!! SKOL VIKINGS!!!!!
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Last edited by mountainviking; 06-08-2014 at 05:52 PM.
Control the line, control the time, and give your D a chance to shine!!
"Balance it on end and thats the third side of the coin!!" -wookiefoot