The Seahawks flipped the script on how to build defenses. Well… That might be a little far, but they definitely found a different way to build a mousetrap. A damn effective mousetrap.
Traditionally, NFL teams have looked to build their defense from the front backwards – have an elite front seven that can get to the QB and stop the run. The thinking was that any Tom, Dick, or Harry can play defensive back behind that.
Seattle ran that thinking backwards: Have two long, physical corners, throw in a MORE physical strong safety (long too), and put a future HOF at centerfield behind all of em.
Any Tom, Dick, and Harry can play in front of THAT.
Sit in base, 3-deep most of the time and bring it. We think our guys can out physical your guys. Let the best team win, and win the Seahawks did.
The NFL is a copycat league and don’t think their blueprint went unnoticed.
Like how the Tampa-2 spread like wildfire after the Bucs won in 2002. But as teams quickly found out (our Vikings recently among them), the Tampa-2 is much easier to play with John Lynch, Derrick Brooks, and Warren Sapp in the mix.
Just like teams how will try and copy Seattle’s template, but find out it’s much easier to execute with a Richard Sherman, Walter Thurmond III/Byron Maxwell, Cam Chancellor, and the great Earl Thomas.
But as George Edwards and Mike Zimmer look to rebuild this 32nd ranked defense, the secondary looks to be the strength of the carcass they inherit.
The defensive line is likely going to lose long time stars Jared Allen and Kevin Williams (Allen more likely than Williams). Plus versatile piece Everson Griffen is set to hit the open market. Solid DT Fred Evans too. So basically you have B-Rob, an improving Sharrif Floyd, and a bunch of other untested/underwhelming parts.
But in the secondary, you have a FS in Harrison Smith who’s primed to make a leap up the ladder in season 3 (if he can stay healthy). A Xavier Rhodes at CB who showed flashes down the stretch. Plus an okay (you don’t really want starting, but they can in a pinch) complement of Sanford/Sendejo at SS, Marcus and Josh at corner, and Blanton who you can throw all over the place (underrated in his versatility).
So despite having holes and being deficient, the secondary is the best looking girl at the ball – as currently constituted – on this Vikings defense.
Enter Justin Gilbert
I’m not a huge college football fan, but I will watch late in the season (especially the bowl games) to see how this next crop of NFL rookies fare. The first game I saw of Oklahoma State CB Justin Gilbert was in the Cotton Bowl vs Mizzou.
Instant man love.
He didn’t fill up the stat sheet (2 tackles and an early pick), but the way he took Mizzou stud WR Dorial Green-Beckam out of the game was impressive and made an impression.
Plus the 4.35 40 Gilbert just ripped off in the Combine doesn’t hurt either. (HELLO!)
He can play shut down man to man and even return kicks )if Cordarrelle gets dinged or simply needs a breather), Gilbert had a 100-yd KR vs Kansas this year. Plus having two CBs that you feel comfortable matching them up on a WR and leaving them on an island greatly opens up what sort of heat which you can dial up on defense.
That has to be appealing to Mike Zimmer. Zim had a great tandem of CBs in Cincinnati in Leon Hall and Jonathan Joseph for a number of years (and then a serviceable rotation of Nate Clements, Terrence Newman, Dre Kirkpatrick, and Adam Jones across from Hall after Joseph went to Houston in 2011). He did great things with that Bengals defense with two solid starting corners. Imagine what Zim/Edwards could do with a Rhodes-Gilbert tandem.
This fantasy pairing also depends on free agency. The Vikings throw a pile of money at Titans FA corner Alterraun Verner. Which makes sense as the Vikings will have the cap room and Verner has familiarity with new DB coach Jerry Gray (Gray was the DC in Tennnessee the past 3 seasons). New assistant DB coach Jonathan Gannon has worked with Verner as well.
If we do land Verner, that shifts needs elsewhere and takes Gilbert off the table. But Khalil Mack wouldn’t be a bad consolation prize.
Either way, the future is looking bright for the Vikings and especially on defense.
We can’t do any worse than 2013.