In a recent feature for SI.com, Doug Farrar loads praise on Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer and his defense.
“The announcement Monday of a five-year contract extension with safety Harrison Smith underscores the primary reason for the Vikings’ potential sustained success,” he writes. “They have a ton of young, talented defensive players under contract for multiple years in the prime of their careers.”
Not only does he like Minnesota’s homegrown defensive players (“The nucleus of the team has been developed within the organization,” he writes, “and that’s the only way to establish consistency in a defense over a long period of time.”), but he feels they dovetail with Zimmer’s scheme.
“It’s a defense that looks simple at first, only to reveal all kinds of wrinkles that make it special,” he writes. “Most of all, what sets the Vikings apart is how their best players fit so well within the scheme.”
He goes on to break down four players he calls difference-makers — Anthony Barr, Everson Griffen, Linval Joseph and Harrison Smith — with a special emphasis on Smith.
“In today’s NFL, it’s a lot easier to play defense if you have a deep safety with the physical gifts and natural aggression to make plays, along with the football intellect to read the field quickly and react instinctively to whatever he sees,” he writes. “Over the last few years, Smith has joined [Eric] Berry and Seattle’s Earl Thomas among the elite few who check all those boxes.”
He does not shy away from comparing the Vikings defense to that of the Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos — two recent champions.
“A dominant pass rusher or two, a pace-setting nose tackle, and one of the best safeties in the league?” he asks, rhetorically. “That’s a great start to a championship defense. The last piece the Vikings need from the formula followed by the Seahawks and Broncos is a cornerback who can shut down top receivers on a consistent basis.”
For Vikings fans, that’s good news, especially coming off of a 11-5 season in which Minnesota won the NFC North title and was a short missed field goal away from knocking off the Seahawks in the playoffs.[Sports Illustrated]