The Minnesota Vikings’ defense has transformed in 2023 under the direction of new defensive coordinator Brian Flores. This year, the unit is using randomness, diversity, and unpredictability to crush offenses and quarterback. Almost no one expected the Vikings to improve as much as they have this offseason, shooting up the DVOA charts from 25th in 2022 to 5th in 2023, largely due to Flores’ outlandish scheme.
It’s really bonkers.
Vikings defensive scheme superlatives:— Timo Riske (@PFF_Moo) December 22, 2023
Most Cover 0 (by far)
Least Cover 1
Most Cover 2 (by far)
2nd most rotations to open
Lowest avg. LB depth
Most avg. players lined up at the line
Highest blitz % (by far)
Most drop 8 coverage (by far)
When clustering all defenses of the last 5 years (i.e. 160 defenses total) based on schematic indicators, the 2023 Vikings defense is the furthest away from all other 159 defenses.— Timo Riske (@PFF_Moo) December 22, 2023
In other words, the most unique defense of the last 5 years.
While the typical team brings either four or five rushers most of the time, the Vikings are all over the place, routinely dropping eight into coverage more than any other team while also bringing the house more than any other team. Where most teams have a bell curve, the Vikings have a flat line.
This makes them extremely difficult to prepare for. Offensive line assignments get extremely complicated when you have to prepare for more than a handful of checks against 6+ rushers or identify what you should be doing when no one is coming. It’s all extremely clever. Those are usually novelty plays, not standards, and every second spent learning pass-offs and assignments against big blitzes, or extreme non-blitzes, is a second not devoted to the standards. Diversity in concepts helps out the basics.
And the funniest thing about the Vikings is that despite all of the big blitzes, they’re actually at their best when they’re not blitzing.
More of the very weird stat that the Vikings defense is actually better when it DOES NOT blitz, even though it blitzes a ton! https://t.co/AzFBHxbwPI— Aaron Schatz (@ASchatzNFL) December 24, 2023
Basically, they get you to start freaking out about pressure, and then panic even when it’s not coming, speeding up a quarterback’s clock, and coaxing throws into an 8-man cloud. It’s also a “risky” scheme, as the Vikings’ secondary is their weak link, and if a quarterback is able to see an all-out blitz coming, there will be an opportunity for a big play. Some teams “protect” their young or less talented corners with big cushions. The Vikings do it by convincing the quarterback that he’s going to die on every play.
I know which strategy I prefer.