Vikings Skyrocket Bleacher Report’s Defensive Power Rankings

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The 2020 Minnesota Vikings defense bottomed out in an unforeseen fashion for Mike Zimmer. Before 2020, Minnesota’s defense was the second-best in the NFL from a points-allowed standpoint under Zimmer, trailing only the New England Patriots from 2014 to 2019.

Zimmer’s defense surrendered an average of 19.5 points per game in his first six seasons, tumbling mightily for the pandemic season to 29.7 points per game — a dastardly 52% spike in one season. There was no other way around it; Minnesota’s defense was stinky.

Zimmer’s bunch ranked fourth-worst in the business in the aforementioned points allowed metric. Yards allowed per game wasn’t much better — the Vikings were sixth-worst in that regard. Then, the pass rush was nonexistent. Minnesota placed dead last in the NFL via pass rush per Pro Football Focus.

But that’s all going to change, says Bleacher Report. Alex Kay from BR power-ranked all NFL defenses on Thursday. Instantly per his analysis, Minnesota careened up the board, traveling from 29th in the league — all the way up to #10 in these preseason defensive rankings:

After the 2020 Minnesota Vikings were called the “worst defense” that head coach Mike Zimmer has ever had, this team looks ready to make a huge leap up the rankings. The Vikings completely re-tooled their secondary in free agency, signing safety Xavier Woods and a pair of cornerbacks in Patrick Peterson and [Mackenise Alexander]. The club splurged for a massive upgrade along the interior defensive line with Dalvin Tomlinson as well. Minnesota didn’t turn any heads with its approach to the draft, but prospects such as Chazz Surratt (taken No. 78 overall) and Patrick Jones II (No. 90) and Camryn Bynum (No. 125) could all crack the rotation this season. With these additions getting integrated and stars like Danielle Hunter and Anthony Barr healthy, the Vikings should be a much better defensive squad in 2021.

The Vikings spent the first part of the offseason fortifying the abhorrent 2020 defense. In direct response to that futility, general manager Rick Spielman signed via free agency Patrick Peterson, Dalvin Tomlinson, Xavier Woods, Nick Vigil, Mackensie Alexander, and Stephen Weatherly. Then, players like Danielle Hunter, Anthony Barr, Michael Pierce (COVID opt-out), and Eric Kendricks will return from mass absence in 2020. In this regard, the 2021 defense will feel totally different and revamped. And Bleacher Report agrees.

What’s more, the defense might get even better. Why? Because after June 1st, Spielman will have nearly $15 million to spend on free agents.

The team traded the maligned Mike Hughes to the Kansas City Chiefs on Thursday, unceremoniously ending his underwhelming tenure in Minnesota. The Vikings will have a 6th-Round draft pick next season to use for the talent replacement of Hughes. The quiet plan was to release Hughes in the near future, but the deal with Kansas City ensured that Spielman “got something” for the once-promising cornerback.

As for a Hughes replacement, the Vikings already have that — his name is Mackensie Alexander. The ex-Bengal rejoined Minnesota this offseason on a teensy contract. With Jeff Gladney’s legal turmoil undetermined and unresolved, Alexander could see the bulk of nickel snaps.

Other “big names” that the Vikings can pursue with their $15 million worth of free-agent tokens include Richard Sherman, Geno Atkins, Ryan Kerrigan, Melvin Ingram, Dre Kirkpatrick, Sheldon Richardson, or Bashaud Breeland.