The focus of the Vikings' revamping project with a new head coach, new coordinators and several new position coaches has focused mainly on offense, but the defense will also have a slightly different look.
Fred Pagac takes over for Leslie Frazier as defensive coordinator and Mike Singletary was added to coach linebackers, Pagac's old duties. The Vikings will still employ a 4-3 defense that maintains Cover-2 as the base in the back end, so where do they need to improve the most?
Frazier, now the head coach, points to the fact that the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears were both in the NFC Championship Game as proof that the Vikings have improvements to make. Here is how the Vikings stacked up defensively with the top two teams in the division, using that as a guide for where they need to make strides.
YARDS: Despite having a three-year stretch from 2006-08 where the Vikings were the top rushing defense in the league, followed by finishing second in 2009, the once-immovable objects were pushed around more in 2010. The Bears, who use a similar base defense, were the best in the NFC North defending the run and second in the league overall, giving up an average of 90.1 yards per game rushing. The Vikings were ninth at 102.2 and the Packers were 18th at 114.9.
The divisional rankings followed the same order in rushing yards per play, although Chicago's separation wasn't quite as distinct. The Bears ranked sixth in the league there, giving up an average of 3.73 yards per rushing play, while the Vikings were ninth at 3.92 and the Packers 28th at 4.65.
While Green Bay didn't have much success defending the run, the Packers were far better against the pass, ranking fifth in the league by yielding an average of 194.2 passing yards a game. The Vikings were 10th at 210.4 yards and the Bears were 20th at 224.3 yards per game.
However, when it came to yards per passing play, the Vikings finished third among the three. Green Bay was third in the league with 5.90 yards per pass play against it, while the Bears were seventh at 6.16 and the Vikings were 12th at 6.36.
Green Bay's proficiency against the pass led it to the highest NFC North ranking in overall yards yielded per game. The Packers were fifth in the league at 309.1 yards, the Vikings eighth at 312.6 and the Bears ninth at 314.3.
QUARTERBACK PRESSURE: The Packers' success against the pass can be largely attributed to the pressure they applied. They ranked third in the league in sacks per pass attempt, bringing down the quarterback on 8.92 percent of the opponents' pass attempts. The Vikings were 20th at 5.86 percent and the Bears were 21st at 5.84 percent.
The Packers' pressure on the QB led to the top interception rate in the NFL, picking off 4.55 percent of the opponents' passes, while the Bears were eighth at 3.61 percent and the Vikings were 16th at 2.84 percent.
CONVERSION PERCENTAGES: One of the key defensive statistics is third-down percentage, and the Vikings were in the bottom third of the league there, while the Packers and Bears were in the top third. Chicago ranked sixth in the league, allowing opponents to convert just 34.72 percent of their third downs. The Packers were ninth at 36.15 percent, but the Vikings were 26th at 40.85 percent.
Fourth-down percentages aren't nearly as telling because there isn't as big a sampling, but the Packers were fourth (30 percent), the Bears 16th (46.15) and the Vikings tied for 17th (50).
Red zone touchdown percentage is also a key statistic, and once again the Vikings finished behind the Packers and Bears. Chicago led the way, finishing 10th by allowing opponents to score touchdowns on 47.62 percent of their trips inside the 20-yard line. The Packers were 12th at 47.62 percent and the Vikings were 23rd at 56.52.
However, the Vikings were much better when it came to allowing touchdowns in goal-to-go situations, where they ranked fifth, allowing touchdowns on 59.09 percent of those opportunities. The Packers were tied for eighth at 61.11 percent and the Bears were 12th at 68 percent.
SCORING: The ultimate goal is to outscore the opponent, and the Vikings clearly trailed their top two division foes there. Green Bay was second in the league, allowing 15 points per game and the Bears were fourth, allowing 17.9. Meanwhile, the Vikings were 18th, giving up 21.8 points per game.
The Packers were also second in points differential, outscoring their opponents by an average of 9.3. The Bears were 10th at 3.0 and the Vikings were 25th at minus-4.2.
Frazier admits the Vikings have to make up ground on the Packers and Bears, and he knows defense best. Looking at those statistics, the Vikings need to make the biggest strides in pressuring the quarterback and taking advantage of interception opportunities. With Pagac dialing up the defensive plays, pressure via the blitz could happen more often, as fans witnessed against the Eagles, but however it happens, it's clear the Vikings need to get to the quarterback more often than they did in 2010.
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
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