After a 5-10 record and a finish of fourth place in the NFC North, it’s obvious the Minnesota Vikings have a lot to improve before the 2014 season starts. It will be up to new head coach Mike Zimmer to improve the Vikings from a last place team to a playoff team. Here are the biggest things the Vikings have to improve on in 2014.
1. The Passing game:
While the Vikings boasted a top 10 rushing attack, they had one of the worst passing offenses in the NFL in 2013. The team averaged 214 yards per game, which was ranked 23rd out of the 32 teams. Even though Matt Cassel and Christian Ponder are still on Minnesota’s roster, the team is expected to select a quarterback in the 2014 NFL Draft. If running back Adrian Peterson wants to avoid eight-man fronts, the team will have to have a respectable passing game in 2014.
2. The Rushing Defense
Ever since the 2008 season, the rush defense of the Vikings has been declining. In 2008, the team ranked number one in rush defense and last season they ranked 16th and gave up over 110 yards per game. That is the most the team has given up in the last six seasons.
While having an average rush defense won’t prevent you from making the playoffs, it will keep the Minnesota Vikings from doing so. Teams that have an average rush defense usually have a great offense and other than Peterson, nothing on the Vikings’ offense is spectacular. The signing of nose tackle Linval Joseph should help improve the rush defense. The 6’4 325 pound Joseph should team nicely with defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd to make an intimidating force inside.
3. Defending The Pass
When your team gives up 287 passing yards per game and finishes 31st in that category, it’s time to take steps to improve that. The addition of Captain Munnerlyn as well as the development of the Vikings’ 2013 first round pick Xavier Rhodes should help improve one of the NFL’s worst pass defenses. When you play in a division with the Packers, Bears and Lions, you have to finish better than next to last in the NFL in pass defense, or you will continue to win five games a season.
4. Improve from dead last in points per game
If you want to know why the Vikings were as bad as they were last season, then look no further than the number of points they game up. The team allowed an average of 30 points per game in 2013. That was most out of any team in the NFL last season.
Another reason the Vikings defense struggled to stop opponents in 2013 was their turnover ratio. The team had a -12 turnover ratio last season. When your offense turns the ball over, that usual puts pressure on your defense to stop teams when they have a short distance to get the ball in the end zone.
Some say you can make the playoffs by having one of the worst pass defense in the NFL. Last season, The Green Bay Packers were the only team in the top 10 of average points allowed per game to make the playoffs (number eight 26.8 points per game). The Packers can do that because they have a high-powered offense and Aaron Rodgers, who is arguably the best quarterback in the NFL. When you’re the Minnesota Vikings and your quarterback is Matt Cassel or Christian Ponder, you don’t have the same luxury.
5. Penalty Yards
When your defense gives up an average of 397.6 yards per game and 30 points per game, your margin for error is already minimum. Tossing in an average of 62.7 yards worth of penalties and you have a 10 loss Vikings football team.
New defensive coordinator George Edwards has to make sure Minnesota’s defense is much more discipline in 2014. When you have a young defense, you have to make sure they don’t shoot itself in the foot with self-inflicting penalties.