Vikings defensive coordinator Brian Flores claims he’s still in the early stages of the installation process. He’s teaching some of the basic principles and laying the groundwork for a defense that is to be respected leaguewide.
That wasn’t the case under former defensive coordinator Ed Donatell as the Vikings were stubbornly predictable throughout the 2022 season. They finished ranked 31st in the NFL in total defense, with only the Detroit Lions allowing more yards per game.
That’s a big reason the Vikings hired Flores this offseason. The 42-year-old former Miami Dolphins head coach brings an aggressive style that has the potential to transform the defense into a powerhouse. His presence is already being felt a week into organized team activities at TCO Performance Center.
Asked about going up against the defense in practice, running back Alexander Mattison used the word “intense” on multiple occasions, while receiver K.J. Osborn opted for the word “exotic” to describe the controlled chaos before the snap.
“I wasn’t prepared to have my mind racing so fast,” Mattison said. “I think it’s going to be extremely beneficial for us on offense.”
“There’s a lot of movement from the front,” Osborn said. “We would need a full-week game plan to do all the stuff that they’re doing.”
As much as the different looks from the defense will challenge the offense on a daily basis, that’s simply a byproduct of the ultimate goal, which is to make life miserable on opposing teams.
All of it comes down to how the Vikings want the rest of the league to perceive them.
“I think building an identity is a big part of playing defense,” Flores said. “I try to impart that to our players. That happens over time. Every time we step on the practice field, it’s ‘What is our identity? What are people going to say about us? What do we want it to look like?’ ”
That might explain why the defense has been so aggressive going up against the offense. They are in the process of building an identity. That’s something that can’t be done at half speed.
“If we want to be a championship team, we have to practice like a championship team,” second-year safety Lewis Cine said. “To make it work, it takes buy in. We’ve got to pour everything we have into it. The fact that we’re starting early being aggressive will make it way easier.”
Though many of the conversations being had right now start and stop with Flores, he went out of his way earlier this week to mention other members of the coaching staff.
As far as Flores is concerned, everyone, including defensive line coach Chris Rumph, inside linebackers coach Mike Siravo, outside linebackers coach Mike Smith and defensive backs coach Daronte Jones, among a handful of others, have a voice in helping establish what things are going to look like moving forward.
“It’s been collaborative in a lot of ways,” Flores said. “I think they understand my nature as far as wanting to be aggressive but not reckless.”
That will come into focus throughout the preseason. In the meantime, Flores wants to keep stringing days together, learning more and more about his players, while trying to figure out what they do best.
“It’s hard to do that in this setting because so much of the game is physical,” Flores said. “We’re kind of forecasting based on what we’ve seen. That’s part of it too. We have to forecast. The final decisions of what we’re going to be are going to be made down the road.”