Pertinent Purple Topics: Will The Ed Donatell Scheme Improve The Defense?

May 15, 2021; Englewood, Colorado, USA; Denver Broncos defensive coordinator Ed Donatell. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports.

One of the main reasons why Mike Zimmer is unemployed is due to the recent performance of the defense. A quick glance at the defensive rankings for 2021 suggests that Minnesota wasn’t nearly good enough. Finishing 24th in points allowed and 30th in yards allowed is no one’s idea of success. The task now falls to Ed Donatell and his 3-4 defense. Will the veteran coach be able to scheme up some stronger defensive performances?

In fairness to Zim, Donatell will be working with some greater talent. The pass rusher pair is going to be intimidating, as long as they’re able to stay healthy. Placing Harrison Phillips alongside Dalvin Tomlinson and Jordan Hicks alongside Eric Kendricks ought to make the run defense tougher. Rookies Lewis Cine and Andrew Booth Jr. offer a lot of upside within the secondary.

Now, many of us were feeling good about the defense heading into 2021. Michael Pierce and Hunter were back, Tomlinson was signed, the Barr/Kendricks duo was supposed to be available, and the secondary added veteran talent (Breeland, Peterson, Alexander). Injuries, poor coaching, and bad luck ensured the defense didn’t reach its potential.

For a while now, I’ve been working my way through Denver’s 2021 games to get a sense of what Minnesota’s new defense will look like. If things go as expected, Ed Donatell is going to ensure this defense plays fast. The defensive linemen are going to get moved around. The middle linebackers and safeties are going to make a ton of plays. The corners are going to be physical and competitive (there will likely be more Cover 1 & 2).

In all likelihood, the Minnesota offense will be really good (as long as the iOL isn’t awful). The special teams are somewhat difficult to predict, but it’d be surprising if they were awful (with some concern at kicker). The defense is an area of the game that offers the most potential to either do really well or really poorly. Though there are some injury concerns, Ed Donatell has some good players. If Donatell can get them to reach their potential, the defense could become a top-10 group.

Editor’s Note: This series considers a variety of questions that Minnesota will be looking to answer during training camp and the preseason. The point is simply to provide concise discussions of pertinent purple topics. We’ll do one per day leading up to training camp, which begins on July 24th.