One of the biggest changes with the new coaching staff for the Vikings is that they are switching to a 3-4 defensive scheme. They have been a 4-3 defense for as long as I can remember. By switching to a 3-4 scheme they are able to let their athletes attack the QB from a lot of different spots on the field.
The main thing that Vic Fangio and in turn Ed Donatell do with their defenses is have a base look that they can use and many different variations after the snap that keeps the QB off balance. It makes the QB hold onto the ball longer with coverages that are hard to read when there are not any people added in to pressure the QB. When they do bring extra pressure via blitzes, it speeds the QB up in order to make it more likely for him to make poor decisions. It doesn’t give the QB enough time to go through his progressions and forces him to make shorter throws.
By having Ed Donatell and Mike Pettine in place to run the defense this season, the Vikings have two very experienced defensive minds that are well respected for their minds and schemes. When their defenses are at their best is when DBs can be relied upon to cover their responsibilities man to man or man coverage. This allows a safety or a linebacker to be able to play Robber or Cop, respectively. Eric Kendricks and Harrison Smith will excel on these assignments.
Robber is when a Safety makes it look like he is going to fall back into pass coverage but instead he steps up and is able to make a read on the QB. He is then able to take away any routes that break towards the middle of the field. The Cop scheme/play is when a LB makes it look like he is going to rush after the passer but then he drops back into the middle of the field to make the same plays and reads that a Safety is able to make from the Robber position.
By using both the Cop and Robber plays/playcalls the Vikings will be able to disguise what they are actually doing and confuse opposing QBs. “I just found myself saying, ‘This is so good to practice against something different,’” Cousins said, talking about the sessions with the Broncos a year ago. “I think it’s a great scheme and (our defense is) doing a good job — it just makes practice difficult.”
“It’s really muddy. So when you drop back, you don’t quite know what you’re getting, said Cousins. “Obviously as a quarterback—but at any position on offense—you want to know what you’re getting. And they’re doing a good job with disguise, making everything look the same. …I think it’s a great scheme, and they do a great job. It just makes practice difficult.”
By adding Lewis Cine, Andrew Booth Jr., Brian Asamoah, Akayleb Evans, and Esezi Otomewo in the draft this year, the Vikings added a group of players that can be deployed in a variety of ways. They strengthened their secondary with the picks of Cine, Booth Jr., Asamoah, and Evans. All of these players are skilled in man coverage which is something that this new scheme will stress. They are also capable of playing several different positions which gives the Vikings options to disguise their looks and use their athletic ability to their benefit. Otomewo is a player that could easily step in at any position on the defensive line and provide depth if he is not a starter early on.
The Vikings defense last year was underwhelming and that’s putting it about as politely as I can. They underperformed in almost every area possible and while they looked like a championship caliber team at times, they also consistently gave up big plays. They could not get a stop when it was necessary and ultimately they were infuriating to watch. They had so many talented players that always seemed like they were just a step away from being in the right position, other times they seemed to be miles away.
Mike Zimmer’s 2021 defense finished the season 26th overall in yards per play, rushing yards allowed, defensive penalties, and defensive penalty yards. 28th and 29th in passing yards allowed and yards per rush allowed, respectively. 30th overall in yards allowed and first downs allowed.
Hopefully with a new coach and new scheme they are able to improve by leaps and bounds. I believe that our new coaches will be able to put our players in position to win if the players are able to execute the schemes and plays put in front of them.