The Minnesota Vikings had one of the worst defensive seasons in team history. There were very few bright spots. However, the team looks to turn things around in 2014 with a new defensive-minded head coach, new defensive coordinator and an influx of new talent.
We still don’t really know what the Vikings defense will look like on a play-by-play basis, but a big improvement is expected. Mike Zimmer comes to the Vikings with strong history of getting the most out of his players.
Here are the five best players he has to work with to continue that tradition.
No. 1 DE Brian Robison
The 6-foot-3-inch, 259-pound eighth-year veteran was one of the better Vikings defenders in 2013 despite not having his best season. Robison entered last season in the final year of his contract and coming off his best season since joining the Vikings in 2007 as a fourth-round draft pick. He has been a multi-dimensional left defensive end with the ability to rush the passer, knock down passes and stop the run.
No. 2 DT Linval Joseph
The 6-foot-4-inch, 323-pound fifth-year veteran is on the verge of having a breakout season. He is a space eating nose tackle that can make plays in the backfield. He also takes up multiple blockers to allow linebackers more space. He is the ideal nose tackle for the team’s run-stopping philosophy. He was one of two big free agent signings for the Vikings this offseason.
No. 3 CB Captain Munnerlyn
The 5-foot-8-inch, 195-pound sixth-year veteran is a physical defensive back that can play on the outside or in the slot. The Vikings needed to add a corner that was not afraid to hit or be hit to play in the slot during nickel situations. Munnerlyn will fill that role. He has gradually improved his tackling statistics every year in the NFL. Last season, was his best overall year with 74 total tackles, 3.5 sacks, 12 passes defensed, two interceptions, two touchdowns, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery.
No. 4 S Harrison Smith
The 6-foot-2-inch, 214-pound third-year veteran has developed a reputation as a hard hitter. He has been fined on multiple occasions. Along with his hard-hitting style, he is a playmaker in the defensive backfield. He registered five interceptions - two of which he returned for a touchdown, during the first 21 games of his career. He missed eight games with a foot injury and returned for the final three games of last season. He didn’t miss a beat with 24 tackles in those games.
No. 5 CB Xavier Rhodes
The 6-foot-1-inch, 210-pound second-year veteran emerged last season as a star-in-the-making. He has the size and physicality to cover almost any receiver in the league. Getting out of the “Tampa-2” base scheme will be beneficial for him. He had his best game in Week 12 at the Green Bay Packers with four tackles and four passes defensed. Despite missing three games and starting only six, he finished the season with 48 tackles, 10 passes defensed and one forced fumble.