Minnesota’s defensive coaching staff is going to see some change in the coming weeks. The departure of Ed Donatell means there is at least one spot to fill.
Of course, one of the main questions on the collective mind of Vikings fans is who will get the task of being the new defensive general. One has to assume that the position will be a desirable one. Minnesota is coming off a 13-4 season where they captured the North. The young GM & HC combo are well respected. Given that Kevin O’Connell is an offensive mind, the new DC will likely have a lot of autonomy when constructing and calling the plays.
Plus, we shouldn’t forget that the defense isn’t devoid of talent. Danielle Hunter, Harrison Phillips, Za’Darius Smith, and Harrison Smith are strong defenders. The young fellas – Lewis Cine, Andrew Booth Jr., Akalyeb Evans, and Brian Asamoah – offer a lot of potential. We also think of some of the talented internal free agents who could be brought back: Dalvin Tomlinson, Patrick Peterson, Duke Shelley, and Khyiris Tonga.
In other words, there’s potential for a major bounce back assuming good health, some impact signings, and some excellent coaching.
The DC, Jonathan Cooley, and Minnesota’s Defensive Coaching Staff
After thoroughly burying the lede, we bring things around to the promised coaching option from the title: former Rams DB coach Jonathan Cooley. The coach worked alongside Kevin O’Connell with the Rams.
According to The Athletic, Cooley was being considered to join O’Connell’s staff last year, but Sean McVay squashed the interview chance. Recently, though, McVay has decided to move on from Cooley. He has been let go alongside the several other coaches who were fired.
Take a peak at what the Rams’ website had to say about him:
Under Cooley’s guidance in 2021, the Rams’ secondary ranked fifth-best in opponents passer rating (83.8) and third in interceptions (19). The secondary unit also finished second in the NFL with 17 opponent passing touchdowns allowed and a 0.89 opponent pass touchdown-to-interception ratio. Rams defensive back Taylor Rapp set a career-high with four interceptions, which also tied for the team-lead with teammate Jalen Ramsey. Second-year defensive back Jordan Fuller also led the team in tackles with 113.
In 2020, the Rams’ defense held opposing offenses to only 16.8 points per game, 281.9 yards per game, 190.7 passing yards per game and held each opposing quarterback to under 300 net yards passing. As a team, L.A. held opponents to only 18.5 points per game.
Throughout the 2022 season, Vikings fans grew accustomed to seeing the opposing QB move through the defense like a
hot knife lightsaber through butter. Rejuvenating the pass coverage (and the pass rush) ought to be the #1 priority for the defense.
Now, it remains to be seen if Cooley will get a shot at being a DC in 2023. Perhaps that’s an accomplishment that’s still down the road. Nevertheless, he’s someone to keep in mind. He has worked with some tremendous talent in LA and O’Connell previously considered bringing him along to Minnesota.
There are a lot of veteran voices out there for DC duty. Vic Fangio – the mastermind behind the scheme Donatell was leaning on – has been interviewing for open DC positions. Brian Flores is another name to consider, someone whom Dustin Baker brought up in a recent piece. Moreover, Josh Frey put together a list of 8 names to consider in the immediate aftermath of the Donatell news.
The point, folks, is that Minnesota has some options. If Cooley isn’t yet ready to be an NFL DC, that’s fine. Perhaps he can join the broader defensive staff and make a difference, especially for the coverage.
Major change is coming to the defense. There are a lot of notable internal free agents and, in all likelihood, not enough cash to keep everyone in town. It’s also very plausible that we’ll see several great vets either be traded or cut. As we mentioned before, though, the Vikings have a chance to bounce back in 2023. Indeed, now isn’t the time to throw in the towel but, rather, to gear up for a much improved defense.
Bringing in great defensive minds to help the broader coaching staff is a great place to start.
Editor’s Note: This piece originally appeared on PurplePTSD.