Is this the most cliché Vikings Defense and Special Teams ever? The roster seems to reflect many “rules” that we’ve seen on past teams:
Roster Rule #5 – The Fierce Defensive Front
The best unit in the history of our favorite franchise is the defensive front from 1967 – 1977. That’s way before my time, but we’re all familiar with the Purple People Eaters. Alan Page, Carl Eller, and Jim Marshall defined the Vikings defense and created the motto our DL still practices to this day: “Meet at the Quarterback.”
40 Years later Everson Griffen, Linval Joseph, and Danielle Hunter headline a formidable defensive front. The current iteration took the baton from Brian Robison, Jared Allen, and the Williams Wall. Defensive big men in the 90s featured studs John Randle, Chris Doleman and Henry Thomas. Six of the top 12 franchise players, per Pro-Football-Reference’s Approximate Value statistic, are defensive lineman. Out team starts and ends with great DL play.
Roster Rule #6 – The Stalwart LB
Matt, Blair, Scott Studwell, Jack Del Rio, Ed McDaniel, EJ Henderson, Chad Greenway, and now Eric Kendricks. Solid linebackers produce well during long careers with the Vikings. Their careers are so long that many of the names mentioned above overlapped. That gives Minnesota a long history of reliable linebacking. They’re the anchors of the purple defense, even though they’re not necessarily the biggest stars. None of them are in the hall of fame. There’s just one All Pro award and 13 combined Pro Bowl seasons.
I don’t care about the hardware, they’ve all been great Vikings. Kendricks remains in the middle for 2017. We’d be exceptionally lucky if his stint in Minnesota lasts as long as the other stalwart LBs who came before him. They averaged a decade in purple.
Roster Rule #7 – The Liability Cornerback
If Trae Waynes and Mackensie Alexander don’t develop into premier NFL defensive backs, it’ll be a familiar sight for us. The Vikings consistently spend upper tier draft capital on cornerbacks without getting sufficient production from the athletes taken. Before Mack and Trae, we watched Josh Robinson flop. The four year Chris Cook experiment didn’t go well either. In 2004 they signed Antoine Winfield to lock down one side of the pass defense. Winfield played exceptionally, but he also played across from Cedric Griffin, Asher Allen, and Fred Smoot during his 9 year stint here. Xavier Rhodes is the exception, not the rule.
Many of us already lack faith in Waynes and Alexander. They’re certainly unproven. While I’m a bit more hopeful, GM Rick Spielman traded for Tramaine Brock. That’s a clear signal: he thinks the team needs at least a backup plan at CB. Here again there’s another Vikings cliché: Free Agents and trades solved most secondary issues. Captain Munnerlyn, Darren Sharper, Corey Chavous, Terence Newman, Jimmy Hitchcock and the aforementioned Winfield all solidified the defensive backfield after their acquisition.
Waynes and Alexander may make us nervous, but the Brock signing certainly helps to ease those nerves.
Roster Rule #8 – The Reliable but Nail-biting Kicker
Minnesota Vikings fans don’t trust kickers. Every fan has some apprehension before the attempt, but we fight off a cold sweat every time. We learned the hard way when Gary Anderson missed in 1998. Then the dreadful fear proved justified when Blair Walsh missed in 2015. Now there’s zero confidence. Kai Forbath hasn’t missed a FG while in purple. Rather than bring comfort, that fact only guarantees that we’re due for a letdown.
Ironically, the best purple teams in recent history were all good/great in the kicking game. Gary Anderson, Ryan Longwell, and Blair Walsh were no slouches. They powered many of the team’s victories during their time with the purple, but they’re remembered more for their few failures instead. Forbath will do his best to avoid the same fate.
A great DL, a stalwart LB, questions marks at DB, and a kicker that hasn’t missed. Yeah, they’re the most cliché Vikings Defense and Special Teams ever.