There wasn’t much to complain about in Week 1 for the Minnesota Vikings, as first-year head coach Kevin O’Connell steered the team to victory over the Green Bay Packers, 23-7.
But according to Bleacher Report, Minnesota does have one area it can tighten up — run defense.
Kristopher Knox of Bleacher Report authored an article on Friday detailing “one change every team can make moving forward,” and for the Vikings, shoring up the run was paramount.
Knox wrote, “The team surrendered 338 yards and 21 first downs but only allowed seven points. Moving forward, however, and especially this week against the Eagles, Minnesota will need to clamp down on the run.”
The Vikings allowed 6.2 yards per carry to the Packers running backs on Sunday.
“Minnesota must play a tighter style of defense against the run in Week 2. And Philadelphia is far from the only strong running team that Minnesota will see this season,” Know warned.
Minnesota has endured problems with run defense since 2020. Much of the defense was subpar in Mike Zimmer’s final two seasons with the Vikings, but the run defense was exceptionally naughty. In 2020, Minnesota ranked 27th (or sixth-worst) in rushing yards allowed and didn’t improve much in 2021, ranking 26th in the same metric. With the hire of O’Connell, though, and the addition of Ed Donatell’s 3-4 defense, there’s hope the rushing defense can stabilize.
Whether intentional or not, Minnesota’s run defense did not change much in Week 1. After Week 1 — so, you know, one game; panic may be premature — the Vikings rank 28th in yards per carry allowed and 29th in rushing defense DVOA.
While Knox’s recommendation can be perceived as a cautionary tale for the rest of the season, O’Connell and Co. will see an immediate test on Monday night. The Vikings play the Eagles on the road, and Philadelphia just finished a game where four different players scored rushing touchdowns en route to 216 rushing yards, the fourth-most leaguewide in Week 1.
Just as Donatell focused on limiting Aaron Rodgers through the air, preventing big plays, in particular, he must scheme the Eagles to downsize the run. Otherwise, Miles Sanders, Boston Scott, Kenneth Gainwell, and even Jalen Hurts, the quarterback, will replicate their Week 1 rush-bludgeoning against the Detroit Lions.
And if Donatell can shore up the defensive trenches versus ball carriers in Week 2 and 2022 on the whole, the Vikings could showcase a respectable run defense for the first time since 2019.
Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sally from Minneapolis. His Viking fandom dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ and The Doors (the band).