All things considered, the Vikings defense played well against the NY Jets last Monday night. If you discount the 7 points that came from a late game INT returned for a score, the Vikings surrendered 22 points to the Jets. That’s not a bad number considering A) New York began 4 possessions inside of Vikings territory and B) the Vikings offense did nothing to help the field position battle in the 1st half.
But one area where the Vikings defense will look to improve this week is run defense. The Jets rushed for 155 yards on 32 carries against the Vikings defense, which is typically stout against the run. Vikings assistant head coach/defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier pointed to poor gap discipline as a main factor in the Jets ability to run the ball against his squad.
“I get concerned when we get out of our gaps; when we’re not where we’re supposed to be,” Frazier acknowledged on Thursday. “Guys get a little anxious and start wanting to make other people’s plays. Then you get a little concerned.”
Although the Cowboys are a pass-heavy offense, they also feature a trio of talented runners that can cause headaches for opposing defenses. Starter Marion Barber III is a big, physical and imposing runner who can pickup yardage between the tackles. Felix Jones is a shiftier runner who is dangerous in the open field and also excels as a receiver out of the backfield, particularly in the screen game. And then reserve Tashard Choice is a versatile back who can come in and change the pace for either Barber or Jones.
If the Vikings don’t fix their gap discipline issues from Monday night, the Cowboys will be quick to pounce.
“We’ll get things to where they need to be and we’ll get tested this weekend by Dallas,” Frazier said. “They have the ability to run the football and I’m sure they saw some things in that Jets game they think they can exploit. We’ll have to really step it up and play good run defense.”
While the 155 yards given up was a little disheartening for Vikings fans on Monday night, what should be encouraging is that the Vikings have identified the problem and will have it shored up by the time Sunday afternoon rolls around. And if you dig a little deeper in the statistical analysis, you can see that fixing just a few errors will go a long way for the Vikings.
The Jets picked up 84 of their 155 yards (54.1%) on 5 long runs, according to Frazier; that averages out to 16.8 yards per carry. But on the other runs – 27 carries for 71 yards – the Jets averaged just 2.6 yards per rush. The key to holding the Cowboys closer to 2.6 yards per carry than 16.8 yards per try is simple – gap discipline.
“You’ve just got to do your job and let everyone else do their job and we’ll be fine,” Frazier explained. “That’s how we became and have been a great run defensive football team, and that won’t ever change.”
Tags: Leslie Frazier
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