Sharrif Floyd is starting to get it. The schemes. What the coaching staff is asking. The techniques being asked of him.
If the last few games are any indication, it’s all starting to come together for Floyd, who said his performance Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers was the best of his young career.
One of the changes in technique that defensive-minded head coach Mike Zimmer started to employ with the defensive linemen as soon as they started practicing was quicker, shorter steps, especially when playing the run.
“It was new to me. I never was told to play that way, but coach wanted to me to do it so I’m going to work at it,” Floyd said Monday. “After a while, it actually was comfortable and I played faster and stronger at holding the point in the run game with the short steps. Pass rush, you can take your long steps, that’s what you need to do, but it helped a lot in the run game.”
Floyd, the first of three first-round draft choices for the Vikings in 2013, has started to play the run and rush the passer better in recent games.
The analytics site Pro Football Focus gave Floyd his highest grade of the season off Sunday’s performance, beating his previous best from the week before, and has him as the 13th-ranked defensive tackle or nose tackle in the league so far this season.
“He played well. He’s getting better rushing the quarterback. He was better against the running game yesterday,” Zimmer said on Monday. “He’s a guy that continually tries to do the best he can. He’s helping us play good defensively, too.”
The second-year defensive tackle from Florida has three sacks and 10 quarterback hurries, according to PFF, tied for eighth among defensive tackles in both categories.
Floyd said the coaching staff is helping to put him in good situations, too. The defensive line ran more stunts on Sunday, but Floyd said that was because they were in more situations to rush the passer because they were playing better on first down, meaning more likely passing plays on second and third down.
He also moved from side to side more on Sunday, which helped keep the offense guessing where he would be.
“I don’t even think that has anything to do with me,” Floyd said. “I think that’s just coach calling the plays and understanding what they’re doing on certain down and distances.”
It took some time for Floyd to get used to the different techniques being taught and understand why he was being asked to shorten his stride on running downs. But it appears to have helped. PFF credits him with 15 stops – solo tackles that constitute an offensive failure – which is tied for seventh among defensive tackles.
“I think our guys are learning the things that we’re trying to teach them and hopefully it continues to show on Sundays,” Zimmer said.
That seems to be the case. The Vikings are up to the fourth-ranked passing defense in the league. They are 17th against the run and ninth overall.
“I think our defense is a lot better than last year, especially you’ve got a lot of guys buying into what’s going on with the coaches teaching and how we’ve got to the job done,” Floyd said.
“I think obviously the guys play a big role in that, but the coaches as well, and I think the techniques and the defense that Coach Zimmer and the staff (brought) in is just a perfect fit for who have here on this team.”
Floyd improving with new techniques
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