This season the Vikings defense has committed to more of a rotation during games with their defensive line, has a starting linebacker who has missed two complete games and a starting safety who has missed the past 7 quarters of action.
Through it all, the Vikings defense has performed well and has demonstrated a significant improvement from a season ago. Over the past two weeks, in fact, the Vikings have allowed just 26 total points and they’re yielding only 3.3 yards per rush (5th in the NFL) and 6.5 yards per pass attempt (6th) for the season.
Frazier explained to reporters on Monday that he’s not surprised his defense has been able to perform well despite a few adverse circumstances.
“Not completely because that was one of the goals,” Frazier said. “I know when Rick (Spielman) and the personnel department talked about what we were trying to get accomplished from a roster standpoint, that was one of the major conversations, improving our depth.”
Perhaps the best example of the Vikings defensive depth paying dividends is S Jamarca Sanford. He replaced an injured Mistral Raymond in Week 3 against San Francisco and then started the Vikings Week 4 game at Detroit. In those two games, Sanford collected 10 tackles, 1 pass defensed, 1 forced fumble and 1 fumble recovery. He was also involved in a play with fellow safety Harrison Smith where the Vikings defenders caused Lions WR Calvin Johnson to drop a TD pass.
Other examples of the Vikings depth coming through include DE Everson Griffen, who has 8 tackles, 4.0 tackles for loss, 3.0 sacks and 1 forced fumble, and LB Marvin Mitchell, who has filled in capably for an injured Erin Henderson.
“We know we’re going to have some injuries,” Frazier said. “We’ve experienced injuries here in the past couple of years, in the secondary in particular, so that was a point of emphasis, to improve our depth, to upgrade it to the point where if there was an injury, there wouldn’t be such a big drop-off that we’ve witnessed here in the past.
“And I credit our scouting department for doing a good job in that area so now when we rotate defensive linemen, you don’t feel as handcuffed as you would in the past. You lose a guy at linebacker, you don’t feel as strained as you do in the past and the same is true in our secondary.”
The Vikings have had success on defense thanks to standout performances from starters such as DE Jared Allen, (10 QB hits, 2.0 sacks), LB Chad Greenway (team-high 55 tackles) and CB Antoine Winfield (DBs-leading 34 tackles). But depth has played an important role, too. And, as Frazier pointed out, the nature of the game of football is such that injuries will happen and teams have to be able to adapt.
“You hope that you don’t have injuries,” Frazier said. “But they do occur, and depending on where that injury occurs, it could really have a major impact on your team if you don’t have quality depth. Fortunately for us, I think we have pretty good depth.”
Tags: Antoine Winfield, Chad Greenway, Everson Griffen, Jamarca Sanford, Jared Allen, Leslie Frazier, Marvin Mitchell
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