If the Vikings are going to get over the hump this season and return to being one of the elite teams in the NFC, it's going to have to come as the result of an improved defense. The team has made multiple changes on the defensive side of the ball to achieve that end and could end up with as many as six new starters by the time the season gets underway.
On the defensive front, the team used a first-round pick to take Erasmus James – the third straight year the team has used a No. 1 pick on the defensive line. With Chris Hovan shown the door, the team went out and paid for Pat Williams – a pure nose tackle whom the team hopes won't just be a run-stuffer but a guy that requires double teams that could open up Kevin Williams for another Pro Bowl season.
In the middle of the defense, the addition of veterans Napoleon Harris and Sam Cowart is hoped to bring some discipline to a group of talented but underachieving players. With high hopes for Dontarrious Thomas, E.J. Henderson and Raonall Smith, having a pair of players with a lot of playing experience can only make the team better.
In the secondary, the addition of Fred Smoot and Darren Sharper can turn what has been one of the weakest units on the team into one of the strongest. The team has used free agency to build its starting core – with Smoot and Antoine Winfield at the corners and Sharper and Corey Chavous at safety.
Why were all the additions necessary? Just look at the numbers. Since 1999, the Vikings have ranked 28th, 23rd, 26th, 27th, 28th and 27th in the league in team defense. Despite five different defensive coordinators in those six years, things never seemed to click. With this new willingness to spend, the Vikings are convinced not only can they move up to the middle of the pack defensively, they have the potential to be a top-10 defense.
The buzz around Winter Park is that if the team can move up into the teens in defensive rankings, they will win the NFC North. If they can climb in the top 10, start making reservations for Detroit because the Vikings will be Super Bowl bound.
Numbers Showed The Need On Defense
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