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Minnesota Vikings: Defensive Starters Preview | #Skol

The Vikings defense has taken a sharp turn for the worse since leading the league in PPG allowed at 15.8 in 2017. That defense was historically dominant and helped lead a team quarterbacked by Case Keenum to the NFC Championship game. However, it has gradually gotten worse, and completely bottomed out last year as one of the worst defenses in all of football. So, how does the defense look this year, and who are the guys set to lead the Vikes to all the stops?

EDGE: Danielle Hunter

Big number 99. The fastest player in the history of football to reach 50 sacks. In 2021, he played seven games and got seven sacks. This dude is one of the most dominant edge rushers in the entire league, but won't show up on top 10 lists due to missing 26 of the last 33 games. However, when this guy is on the field he is a one man wrecking crew, and the Vikings entire defense looks different when he is healthy.

DL: Harrison Phillips

The newly acquired free agent had a consensus opinion that the Bills should attempt to resign him. Usually when you take away a good player from a good team, it is a positive thing. Phillips is a player that has shown improvement in every season and is going to add support to one of the worst run defenses in all of football. Phillips is still only 26 years old as well, so there's a chance that he has yet to play his best football.

DL: Dalvin Tomlinson

The other Dalvin on the team is an animal in his own right. He graded out well last year and is still youngish at just 28. The combination of he and Phillips could create a dominant run stuffing duo for the next few years. Tomlinson can give some pocket push as a pass rusher as well, so at full potential these DT could create a very quiet, under the radar, yet very effective duo.

EDGE: Za'Darius Smith

Z Smith is 2 years removed from leading the league in pressures. He battled injuries last year, so we don't know what he is going to look like. However, I am willing to bet he will be above average as long as he is on the field. The best part is the Packers are paying him more than the Vikings are this year, to play for the Vikings. It was funny, the Packers' fans couldn't wait for Smith to get back for the playoff run, but as soon as he signed to the Vikings he was old and washed. Guess we'll just have to wait and see.

LB: Eric Kendricks

Eric Kendricks is the staple of this defense. On every single play you see #54 around the ball, if not the one making the stop. He can carry WRs up the seam, blow up the running back in the hole, and blitz up the A gap for a big 3rd down sack. He is the definition of a great LB, and none of that is going to change this year.

LB: Jordan Hicks

Hicks is another free agent signing and I am expecting him and Kendricks to form a formidable unit. I don't expect anything crazy out of Hicks, just a slightly above average backer with plays were he looks back in his prime. He's a smart and heady player, but heading into his age 30 season I don't expect him to take off into superstardom.

CB: Patrick Peterson

Pat Pete isn't getting any younger, but he wasn't completely garbage last year. Hopefully he can maintain his averageness and just set a baseline for this secondary. Peterson is best suited to help aid in the development of Cameron Dantzler and Andrew Booth. There's nothing this guy hasn't seen, so his presence in the room will hopefully help the young players.

SlCB: Andrew Booth

I LOVED Andrew Booth coming out. In my final mock draft I had Booth at 17th overall, and we got him in the 40s. I didn't project him to the slot initially, but the Vikings have a ton of outside CB bodies, so Booth will likely need to work in the slot to stay on the field a lot early. Cam Bynum could be in this spot too, as he showed the ability to work effectively in the box, and has the corner background from his days at California.

CB: Cameron Dantzler

Cameron Dantzler is one of the most hot and cold players in the entire league. When he is on, he is a lockdown press man CB capable of shutting down anyone. When he is off, he is also capable of being burned on a 40 yard TD by anyone. If he can be a little more consistent, Dantzler could find himself as a more than serviceable starter in the NFL. Hopefully something in the new scheme will unlock his abilities.

FS: Cam Bynum/Lewis Cine

Two young players here that we're not entirely sure what to expect out of. Bynum made some big plays in spots last year, so I believe he has the makings of being a playable safety, however Cine was drafted in the 1st round. Personally, I had Cine as S3 in the class, so I was okay with the selection. This competition will be fun to watch heading into training camp because both guys have a lot of talent.

SS: Harrison Smith

Mr. Reliable. Future Hall of Famer. Harrison Smith is your typical hard nosed safety that can do just about anything at an elite level. He gets penalties for hitting people too hard and gets pick sixes, what else do you want out of you SS? He should waltz into the HOF one day, but I'm not sure it'll be as easy as it should be for him. The numbers and the tape say it all. #HarrisonSmithIsAHOF

All in all this defense has some good pieces, but are one thing gone badly away from not having enough depth to back it up. I don't believe it'll be the 29th ranked defense this year, but I also don't expect it to be any better than the 16th ranked defense in the league. If these guys can play to the top of their ability, mixed with the offensive potential this roster has, the Vikings can be a real threat down the stretch, and potentially win the NFC North.