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Bleacher Report – Vikings

All-22: Interior D-line key to Vikings defensive dominance

By Matthew Coller

After two games, the Minnesota Vikings defense ranks third in the NFL in Yards Per Play Allowed, giving up just 4.5 yards per snap. They have seven sacks (3rd) and have forced a turnover on 26.1% of drives against (2nd). And Mike Zimmer’s defense didn’t exactly draw the easiest of quarterbacks to slow down in the first two weeks, matching up against former No. 2 overall pick Marcus Mariota and future Hall of Famer Aaron Rodgers.

It shouldn’t surprise anyone that the Vikings’ defense is strong considering the combination of Zimmer’s defensive prowess and quality players at every position – including one of the best pass rushers in the NFL in Everson Griffen, an elite linebacker Anthony Barr and a top-end safety Harrison Smith. But the interior of the defensive line has set the table for all the playmakers.

In total, the Vikings allowed 53 yards on 19 carries to Eddie Lacy and James Starks and sacked Rodgers five times. Linval Joseph, Tom Johnson and Shamar Stephen shut down Green Bay’s running game, pressured Rodgers without much need to send extra blitzers and opened up gaps for linebackers and safeties to make plays.

Let’s have a look at how they did it…

Joseph stopping the run

Sometimes in obvious run situations, Joseph lines up directly over the center (you’ll see more on that later), but in this case he sets up shop over the right shoulder of the center and left shoulder of the guard (known as 1-technique). When the guard takes the linebacker, the center is left alone with Joseph and the Vikings’ D-tackle throws him aside as soon as the ball is snapped then wraps up Lacy before he can reach the goal line.

The Packers left JC Tretter alone with Joseph again as they attempted a toss to Lacy. When the hefty running back tries to cut back, Joseph shows off his talent for changing directions quickly, slamming on the breaks, tossing Tretter aside, and bringing down Lacy.

On one of the biggest plays of the game, a fourth-and-1 inside the Red Zone, Joseph lined up over Tretter and shoved him straight into the backfield, allowing Brian Robison to dive in to pull down Starks.

Against the Packers’ run game, the Vikings often stacked the side of the offensive line that included the tight end. Joseph is important to this strategy as well. If the play goes left, he can take up both the guard and center, allowing Barr to penetrate the line or if the run right, Joseph will beat the center 1-on-1 because all the potential helpers will be taken up by Vikings defenders.

D line story 1

Depth, personnel and pass rush

With Sharrif Floyd out, Shamar Stephen stepped in as the run-stopping specialist on the interior. On the 4th-and-1 play, he didn’t push his man back as much as Joseph, but he didn’t allow any traction to be gained. Then on this play, Stephen does not allow the guard to push him off the line of scrimmage while tracking the running back vertically. As soon as Lacy cuts up field, Stephen makes his move, separating from the blocker and making the tackle.

In passing situations, the Vikings defense turns to Tom Johnson, an under-appreciated pass rush artist whose explosiveness off the line of scrimmage makes him a huge challenge for guards. A swim move helps him blow past Lane Taylor, then is too powerful for the tight end.

Johnson, who has 12 sacks over the last two years since joining the Vikings, can also bull rush from the DT position. Also notice Joseph taking the center to the left, opening up an inside passing lane for Johnson to use his quickness.

Again, it speaks to Joseph’s value. Even when he doesn’t rack up sack numbers, he plays a huge role in getting pressure. On this play, he’s double teamed, but still pushes Rodgers out of the pocket while the linebackers drop back in zone coverage.

Zimmer uses players to their skill sets and mixes and matches with the situation. In passing situations, he will even use three defensive ends with Robison and Danielle Hunter both standing up.

D line story

The Vikings have the perfect storm for an elite defense: Good coaching, depth and big-time playmakers. It is clear that it all begins with Joseph. As long as he is playing like he did Sunday night, Minnesota can fill in around him when there are injuries.

The post All-22: Interior D-line key to Vikings defensive dominance appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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