Some Reasons for Positivity on Defense

Some Reasons for Positivity on Defense

Climbing The Pocket
Climbing The Pocket
Some Reasons for Positivity on Defense

With the Vikings at 0-2, there hasn’t been a lot of room for positivity so far this season. I jumped on the pile against the defense in my article yesterday, so I wanted to bring it back around and talk about some of the better plays from the Vikings’ season so far.

Harrison Smith

Smith made a number of big plays against the Colts, including tipping a pass that was intercepted by Eric Wilson.

He had another tipped pass on the game, which was unfortunately caught, but still showed his awareness to get his hands up. He made a couple of really nice plays in the run game, anticipating the run and getting into the backfield to help make stops.

Something else that will be critical is Smith helping the young and injured team with communication. Smith is great at recognizing and calling out offensive tendencies. He is also faster to recognize a play than a lot of the defense. In the first two games, he has spent a lot of time helping with alignments to prevent mismatches. See the play below, where he makes sure a corner is covering Adams in the slot (the Vikings had been burned earlier in the game on a formation that had Adams up against Kendricks).

The Vikings will need Smith to continue to be a leader and play at a high level for the rest of the year if the defense is going to turn around. See a handful of his highlights against the Colts below:

Eric Kendricks

Kendricks has had some mishaps, particularly with run fits, but he is still flying around the field sideline-to-sideline and making some really nice impact plays for the defense. That range has shown on plays like below where he is able to get to Aaron Jones for a loss.

Kendricks is able to use his instincts and speed to shrug off play action and cover a wheel route going down the field below:

Kendricks is a big part of the reason the team has been able to shut down runs to the outside, again with his lateral mobility and sure tackling:

While Kendricks isn’t great at taking blocks head on, his short area quickness allows him to slip blocks and make nice plays on the ball-carrier in the run game if he gets just a little bit of help from his DTs:

With Anthony Barr out for the season, the Vikings will be relying even more on their star MLB to communicate and anchor the middle of the defense. I think he will be up for the task and continue to play well. Take a look at his highlight compilation through two games:

Yannick Ngakoue

The Vikings traded a second round pick for pass rusher Yannick Ngakoue right before the season, and he got off to an understandably slow start against the Packers. Then, last week against the Colts, he started to show why the Vikings traded for him. He ended up pressuring Philip Rivers 4 times, including a strip sack on the play below:

Ngakoue also forced a TFL in the game. Hopefully he will continue to heat up as the season progresses, and he and Hunter will make a fearsome pass rush duo. Check out Ngakoue’s three best plays below:

Mike Hughes

Mike Hughes may have had a rough start to the season against the Packers, but he played quite well against the Colts. He only allowed one reception, and that reception was actually a positive for him in my opinion. The team struggled against quick, out-breaking routes in week 1, but in the play below Hughes shows great click-and-close ability to make a tackle for just a short gain.

In the game against the Colts, Hughes showed good pattern recognition and positioning in zone coverage, and was sticky in man, like on the play below (he is covering the slot at the top of the screen).

Finally, Hughes has been a bonus in the run game and against WR screens. He was not afraid to get his nose dirty and get into the box against the run, which is important for a slot corner, and was also physical against blocks and helped make tackles outside against quick passes and screens. You can see examples of each in the two plays below:

Hughes is currently battling a neck injury, but with luck he won’t be out for too long and we’ll be able to see continued positive contributions from him. The CB room needs it. Check out his highlight compilation below:

Anthony Harris

Anthony Harris has had his fair share of struggles so far this season, but he has certainly flashed play that will make him worthy of the franchise tag. Even on the play where he allowed a TD to Davante Adams, he won the play initially but ended up getting beaten by a ridiculous throw and catch that may have been out of bounds anyway. He can play man against WRs, and does a good job in run support both in condensed areas and when asked to come down from the third level to help clean up a play. He has primarily been the victim of communication issues, which the team will hopefully shore up, and then he can get back to making key plays on the ball and forcing turnovers. Check out his highlights below:

There hasn’t been a lot of good coming from the Vikings for the first two weeks of the 2020 season, and I’ve talked quite a bit about the negatives myself. I wanted to highlight some of the positives and maybe provide a little bit of hope for the team improving. I hope you enjoyed it.

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