Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer wants to have an athletic defense that he can do a multitude of different things with. Now that he is in his second year of implementing his system and his players are getting more comfortable, Vikings fans could start to see that happen more in the 2015 season.
Zimmer said they have more wrinkles implemented but would not specify what they were. Since his team was still getting used to the new defense in his first year, the head coach he didn’t want to over-complicate too many things, but now in his second year he feels it is time to start adding the wrinkles.
“Going through the season last year people schemed us a lot in certain things so you always try to think about ways you can not screw your guys up but make it more difficult for the other team to know what you’re doing,” Zimmer said.
The player who is probably the most important to the versatility of the Vikings defense is linebacker Anthony Barr. He was Mike Zimmer’s first ever draft pick as a head coach and he has the rare combination of size, speed and athleticism that allows him to play a variety of positions.
Throughout the season, Barr will be lined up in the Vikings’ base package, the nickel package and he will likely be lined up as a defensive lineman on multiple occasions.
A big reason why fans have not seen him do too many things out of the ordinary yet is because Zimmer has not quite felt he is ready. Not because of his inexperience at linebacker – this is only his fourth year playing defense – but because injuries have kept him from doing what he needs to off the field.
“I don’t think so much moving to linebacker, I just think some of the time he’s missed in the offseason, in the weight room and some of those things,” Zimmer said. “Once those things settle down and he has a chance to really get into that, he’s got a chance to be a real man.”
Zimmer has very high expectations for Barr this season, like he does with all of his players every season, but he does not go into a season or game expecting a certain number of sacks or tackles from him. Instead, he wants to continue to see him play well and continue to improve in each game.
“I don’t go into it saying he’s going to get 10 sacks and all that stuff, just perform well,” said the head coach. “It’s just like with Everson (Griffen). I don’t say he’s going to get 12 sacks and this guy’s going to get three interceptions. My expectations are more about how they play, how they do their job and how they perform.”
Barr missed the final four games of the 2014 season when he had arthroscopic surgery done on his left knee. It was expected that everything would be good to go when the team got back together for offseason workouts, but he had to sit out during part of training camp because swelling began to occur in the area he had surgery.
Since then, though, he has appeared to be fine, participating in multiple preseason games, and Zimmer believes he will be good to go Monday night when the Vikings take on the San Francisco 49ers.