An 0-2 start often welcomes unwarranted criticism and rash overreactions toward certain teams. With two consecutive losses, sure, a team's playoff hopes have drastically diminished, but we’ve still yet to reach the quarter-mark of the campaign, and for now, take a deep breath. However, we can’t disregard the obvious, and in relation to the current defensive struggles shown by the Minnesota Vikings, they have a long way to go if they intend to qualify for the postseason.
Two weeks, five combined touchdown passes, and nearly 700 passing yards later from Joe Burrow and Kyler Murray have invited concern toward what looked to be an improved Vikings defensive group. Following an outstanding offseason from general manager Rick Spielman that included the signing of interior threat Dalvin Tomlinson to pair with a healthy Danielle Hunter, who’s amassed the second-most sacks (4.0) in two weeks, the duo was looked upon to headline a front seven touting the likes of Anthony Barr and one of the league’s top cover linebackers in Eric Kendricks. And although the Vikings could serve to address the secondary in due time, Patrick Peterson’s addition as a play-making corner and leadership to assist Harrison Smith at the apex of Minnesota’s defense was the ideal scenario for Spielman, whose transactions to improve a unit ranked 25th in total passing yards allowed last fall looked to be fortuitous prior to Week 1.
Through two games, it’s been the Danielle Hunter show and that’s it. A one-man wrecking crew, Hunter has ripped, clubbed, and bull-rushed his way to nearly a handful of sacks in just eight quarters. A two-time Pro Bowler who missed all of 2020, Hunter also has managed 13 tackles, four TFLs, and four quarterback hits. He’s been everything and more for Minnesota, but it’s the issues at the second and third level of Mike Zimmer’s defense that has overwhelmingly underperformed.
With Anthony Barr still sidelined as he recovers from a lingering knee issue, the Vikings also found themselves without Everson Griffen and safety Harrison Hand for their matchup against the Cardinals. The result? It’s been well documented.
Murray played backyard football all afternoon long against Minnesota, toying with defenders in both the run and pass game. And through two weeks, the Vikings have once again found themselves near the bottom of the league in every major defensive category allowing 840 total yards (fifth-worst) and 30.5 points per game. And while their Kirk Cousins-led offense has been sustainable, scoring 24 and 33 points in back-to-back weeks, you simply can’t win games at the NFL level allowing 30-plus per game. In fact, while it’s a small sample size relative to a full 17-game campaign, none of the five teams allowing the most points scored per contest have two wins and hold an overall record of 3-9, including the Vikings who slot sixth-worst.
Cousins has been an easy scapegoat in the past. While his trials and tribulations have become an annual cycle for Minnesota, early in 2021, the finger has clearly turned toward defensive coordinator Vance Joseph. While we possibly could have avoided the conversation if Greg Joseph nails his chip-shot game-winner on Sunday, we ultimately would have delayed the inevitable with Russell Wilson and Baker Mayfield on the docket in consecutive weeks. There’s no excuse for Minnesota to be this bad on defense.
Will Barr help? Of course. Will Griffen’s return provide another veteran presence along the line opposite Hunter? Yes, and it’s proven to be a formidable duo. But for a roster currently tearing at the seams with a lack of depth, it could get worse before it ever gets better.