The Minnesota Vikings defensive line has been a force to be reckoned with during their two-game winning streak, during which the defense has recorded nine sacks – eight of which have come from the defensive line. Head coach Mike Zimmer attributed some of that for players being less “robotic.”
He referenced that defensive end Brian Robison, who has recorded two sacks in the last two games, was being “less robotic,” on Monday. Then on Thursday he said the same about rookie defensive end Danielle Hunter, who has recorded 2½ sacks in the past two weeks.
When Zimmer says that a player is being less robotic, it means that they are not thinking so much when they are out on the field. Instead, they are just going out there and playing, letting the game flow a little more.
It makes sense that both of these players needed to loosen up a little bit. Hunter is a rookie who is trying to make an impact and learn a new scheme and a bunch of different techniques at the same time. And Robison admitted that he is a perfectionist and sometimes focuses too much on his technique when out on the field.
“Yeah, absolutely I feel that way. You know, me and Zimmer have had our talks about that,” Robison said. “About not trying to be such a perfectionist with my technique and stuff and just going out there and playing.
“I’ve always prided myself on trying to have the highest technique grade and all that stuff. At the end of the day it’s about making plays sometimes and sometimes you lose sight of that when you try to be so perfect in your technique, so I’ve always been like that.”
Robison said that he is now beginning to just go out there and trust the training he has had and trusting that muscle memory will just be able to take over in the heat of battle. So far it seems as though he has been doing everything right because Zimmer has had nothing but good things to say about him lately.
“Brian Robison the last four weeks or so has been playing really well, I think,” Zimmer said, “so that’s helped quite a bit.”
The success of the defensive line is predicated on more than just a couple players loosening up on the playing field, though. All the defensive linemen are getting more comfortable playing with one another and more comfortable playing in Zimmer’s system.
This is just Zimmer’s second year as the Vikings’ head coach and it appears everything is beginning to click for the defensive linemen as they increasingly understand what is expected from them.
Robison said it is important for all four guys up front to know what the other is doing because they all need to rush together, and that is what they have been able to do lately. And the veteran defensive end is not the only one to think that; other players along the defensive line feel the same way.
“It’s all about chemistry and once you get that chemistry down and the D-line, you start getting the feel for one another and start making more plays and get back to the quarterback more,” said defensive end and team captain Everson Griffen.
The defense is playing their best football of the season and they know they are going to have to continue to do so as they prepare for Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers. Rodgers is a player known for escaping pressure and making plays with his legs, and the defensive front knows that containing him starts with its performance.
The defensive linemen are hitting their stride at the right time, but they know that’s not enough. They need to continue to improve their play because what they have done in the past won’t mean much if their high-level play doesn’t continue.
“We are playing good football,” Griffen said. “But the No. 1 things is keep playing good football for the next five games hopefully. So our whole goal is to keep this momentum going and keep this winning streak going and go out there and just keep on winning games and finding way to win them to get where we want to go.”