Lurtsema's Reaction: Line Play

The Vikings can get better in a number of areas, but they will have to improve some things on the defensive line if they expect to be one of the top teams in the NFL.

The Minnesota Vikings still have a two-game lead over the Green Bay Packers in the NFC North Division at the halfway point, and if anyone would have said the Vikings would be 6-2 after eight games, I think we all would have taken it and run. Plus, the Vikings play the San Diego Chargers next week, the worst team in the NFL that is coached by the worst decision-maker I have ever watched. So I like 7-2 after nine games.

I am, however, concerned with the play of the Vikings defense, especially the line. The Vikings keep stating that their best game hasn't been played yet, and I believe that. However, if the defensive line doesn't start playing well — or should I say reading the offensive linemen better — it might never happen. Let me just address the first half against the Green Bay Packers, where the Vikings gave up 317 yards, 182 of that rushing yards. I have gotten very frustrated the last few weeks as the defensive line just doesn't seem to have the improvement as a group in reacting to the blocking scheme that is presented by the offensive linemen. They must become smarter in their reaction to what they see while making defensive adjustments on the move, whether this is during a stunt or a straight four-man read.

A defensive call in the huddle merely lines the players up, and that's it. Once the ball is snapped and the linemen get aggressively off the ball, the defensive linemen must react according to the blocking scheme. For example, if the offensive tackle lets the defensive end get by him rather easily, the end has to shut down his engine because it is probably either a draw or a screen. Also, with that type of set, whether against a guard or a tackle, the defensive lineman should never chase by running around the blockers. Instead, he should slide in front of the lineman and maintain an equal distance with the other defensive linemen according to the defensive call. By running out of position, defensive linemen will give the opposing team cutback lanes, as the gaps become so wide that linebackers have too much area to fill, which creates an opportunity for a missed tackle or an extra 3- or 4-yard gain.

It happens rather quickly out there, and young players will learn in due time, but I don't consider this a young football team. And if the Vikings are going to play better each and every week, the defensive linemen will be the ones to dictate that improvement. They need to play as a unit, play sharp, crisp and, most importantly, smart football. That will help them increase their divisional lead and become a team that can beat the better franchises in the league, not just the San Diego Chargers.

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