The Minnesota Vikings defense should once again be amongst the league’s elites this upcoming season. The team features a nice blend of young stars and established veterans, forming a squad that is as stingy as they come in today’s NFL.
With a stacked defensive line, impressive young linebackers and a secondary that features big names at both the corner and safety positions, this defense has the potential to be tops in the league in many statistical categories. Although he may not make the biggest impact during the final year of his NFL career, 15-year veteran cornerback Terrance Newman has been cited multiple times by players and coaches for his leadership abilities.
“You know, it’s not always what to do on a play but its habits. It’s how he takes care of himself off the field, things he does in the offseason and how to watch film the right way. He can play all over and everyone on the team is very lucky to have him,” Pro-Bowl safety Harrison Smith said of Newman.
Defensive coordinator George Edwards also was not shy about praising Newman when asked if he was compared to the likes of a utility infielder in baseball because of his versatility.
“You think about how Terrance has played so many different positions for us in the secondary. He’s played safety, he’s played nickel and he’s played corner,” Edwards said. “I mean his versatility for us in that group is definitely a plus and he is an unselfish guy; he’s a true professional and whatever you ask him to do he’s going to prepare like a pro and execute whatever you ask him to do.”
The defensive line is the biggest one of the bigger strengths for the team is likely to be one of the most feared position groups in the game this year. It features run-stopping defensive tackle Linval Joseph, defensive end Everson Griffen and emerging star Danielle Hunter, who could end up leading the NFC North in sacks this year. Griffen was recently signed to a contract extension at the start of Training Camp worth $58 million over four years, with $34 million guaranteed. The extension makes Griffen the sixth-highest paid defensive player in the NFL.
The potential is oozing from Hunter and defensive coordinator George Edwards cannot wait to use some of that untapped potential this season.
“We want Danielle to continue to grow and continue to keep increasing his knowledge of the game. We want him to go out every day and be consistent and play hard. So far, he has done that and we will look at him to keep progressing as the year goes on,” Edwards said.
The 22-year old compiled 12.5 sacks last season in 14 games, while also recovering a fumble for a touchdown against the Tennessee Titans.
What keeps this defense apart from others in the league is they have a true shutdown corner along with an enforcer in the secondary. Cornerback Xavier Rhodes shadows every team’s best receiver and generally shuts them down more effectively than others do throughout the season. Rhodes was also signed to a massive extension that will keep him a Viking through the end of the 2022 season, for five years and $70 million, with $41 million guaranteed. Minnesota has the ability to play man coverage with athletes all over the field, allowing more freedom to blitz and be more aggressive schematically in the front eight. Safety Harrison Smith patrols the middle as well as anyone in the league. Minnesota paid him well for his services with a lucrative extension last summer, making him the highest-paid safety in the league.
The purple and gold are in position to be a top defense in 2017. That part of the team should not be worried about heading into the season.