Vikings’ revamped defense looking to bounce back from down year

Sports

EAGAN, Minn. (KELO) — The Vikings had the 4th worst scoring defense in the NFL last year, by far the unit’s worst mark since Mike Zimmer’s first season in 2014. Minnesota has re-tooled that unit, in hopes that will help the team get back to the postseason.

Last year’s defense was the worst unit Mike Zimmer has had during his tenure with the Vikings. While they brought in plenty of new pieces, players are expecting some other changes.

“He loves bringing some new aspects to the game as he watches film in the offseason. As we game plan through the year, certain offenses might have tendencies that we may change things here and there. I’m always expecting that, and he knows we can roll with the punches, and he knows we can handle that,” Linebacker Eric Kendricks said.

Defensive Tackle Sheldon Richardson and Defensive End Stephen Weatherly each re-signed with Minnesota after spending last season elsewhere.

“There’s comfort level on both sides. They know what they’re getting into, and I know what I’m getting,” Co-Defensive Coordinator Andre Patterson said.

As did cornerback Mackensie Alexander.

“Now he’s like a completely different guy. He’s engaging, communicating, listening to everything and not making mistakes,” Head Coach Mike Zimmer said.

Alexander will be joined in the secondary by veteran Bashaud Breeland, and former All-Pro Patrick Peterson.

“He’s obviously had a ton of success in this league, and it’s awesome having him here. He’s not only a great player, but he’s a great tool for those young guys,” Safety Harrison Smith said.

Minnesota will also get linebacker Anthony Barr back, who suffered a season ending injury in week two last season.

“It’s not just his play, he’s also the guy who calls the huddle. Who, when things are scrambling around, he’s the voice of reason,” Smith said.

After sitting out his first season with Minnesota due to the pandemic, nose tackle Michael Pierce will play this year. The Vikings also signed defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson and safety Xavier Woods in free agency. With all the new pieces, communication has been an early focal point for a unit looking to bounce back.

“You have to stay on top of it day-to-day, but also as the games start coming around, things get a little more detailed, so we’ll have to continue to grow in that area,” Smith said.

Pro Bowl Defensive End Danielle Hunter is also back healthy after missing all of last season. The Vikings will conclude its second week of training camp on Saturday. They’ll host Denver for joint practices next week before their preseason opener on August 14th.

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