Kevin O’Connell Fulfilled the Flores Promise

Several months back, Kevin O’Connell made a promise while speaking with the Minnesota media.

The head coach was speaking at a press conference alongside Kwesi Adofo-Mensah. Of note was O’Connell’s insistence that Brian Flores was going to come back and that the organization was going to put forth an effort to equip the returning DC with better talent. Did those two things end up coming true?

Kevin O’Connell Fulfilled his Promise

First up was the pretty major news that Brian Flores would be sticking around. The man deserves to be a head coach, but he’s going to be Minnesota’s defensive coordinator in 2024.

O’Connell foreshadowed how they were going to support the returning DC: “And ultimately, I think the most exciting thing is where Flo is going to take that defense from here. And as we can improve our depth and continue to add pieces to that side of the football, I have so much confidence in what he’s going to be able to do.”

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Chicago Bears
Oct 15, 2023; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Minnesota Vikings defensive coordinator Brian Flores watches his team play against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Jamie Sabau-USA TODAY Sports

Has the depth been reinforced? What kind of pieces were added?

The edge rusher position could look entirely different in 2024 (and that’s not being hyperbolic). Last season’s main crew — Danielle Hunter, Marcus Davenport, D.J. Wonnum, Patrick Jones, & Andre Carter — could all be playing football elsewhere. After all, the first three names are already gone and then the final two are facing tough competition for a roster spot.

Jonathan Greenard is going to be the EDGE1 and then Andrew Van Ginkle is the EDGE2. Dallas Turner will have an important role to play and then there have been several other additions (Jihad Ward, Gabriel Murphy, etc.). Genuinely, the position could look completely different.

NFL: NFL Draft
Apr 25, 2024; Detroit, MI, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide linebacker Dallas Turner poses after being selected by the Minnesota Vikings as the No. 17 pick in the first round of the 2024 NFL Draft at Campus Martius Park and Hart Plaza. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The linebackers got a boost by adding Blake Cashman and Kamu Grugier-Hill. The corner competition is tougher now that veteran Shaq Griffin and rookie Khyree Jackson are tossed into the mix. And while the defensive tackle spot could still use some work, there have been additions. Jerry Tillery, Jonah Williams, and Levi Drake Rodriguez are all new to Minnesota.

Now, change doesn’t necessarily mean improvement. Quite possibly, the Flores defense struggles in 2024, mirroring the late-season letdown that largely contributed to Minnesota missing out on the playoffs.

More likely, though, is a good step forward for a group that finished at 13th in the NFL by allowing 21.3 points against per game. The returnees get to keep perfecting the Flores system and critical position groups — edge rusher and corner — are showing more formidable depth. Does that lead to a top-10 finish for points against?

Kevin O’Connell said back in January that the Vikings were going to adjust the roster to help Flores take that next step. After several months, it’s safe to say that O’Connell’s promise has been fulfilled.

Editor’s Note: Information from Pro Football Reference helped with this piece.

K. Joudry is the Senior Editor for Vikings Territory and PurplePTSD. He has been covering the Vikings full time since the summer of 2021. He can be found on Twitter and as a co-host for Notes from the North, a humble Vikings podcast.