RSS Mailbag - 12/18

Posted Dec 18, 2009

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Do the Vikings have as good rush defense as people say or is it just that nobody will try to run?

-- Cody D., Duluth

I remember this question being asked about the Vikings defense back in 2006, which was the first of 3 straight seasons in which they had the NFL’s top-ranked rushing defense. It’s true that teams don’t stick with the run against the Vikings – no team has fewer rushes against the Vikings in 2009. But there’s a reason teams don’t rush against the Vikings – they are great at stopping the run.

If the Vikings rush defense was truly a mirage created by the fact that teams simply don’t run against them, then teams would figure that out and run the ball more.

Having said that, I crunched some numbers and found something that surprised me. During the 2008 and 2009 seasons, opposing teams have averaged 22.4 rushing attempts per game and have gained an average of 3.6 yards per attempt. But here’s the surprising part – of the 14 instances over the past 2 seasons in which teams have rushed the ball more than 22 times a game, they’ve gained more than 3.6 yards per carry 8 times. So, to Cody’s point, maybe if teams would stick it out and run the ball more, they’d eventually find success.

But there’s one additional note that I think supersedes the stat I just shared. In those 8 instances where teams rushed more than 22 times in a game and averaged more than 3.6 yards per carry, only twice did that team win (Green Bay in Week 1 of 2008 and Arizona in Week 13 of 2009).

That’s a very long answer to the question, but the conclusion I draw is that the Viking rushing defense is as good as advertised. They’ve ranked tops against the run over the past 3 seasons and so far this year they rank 4th in total rushing defense and tied for 1st in rushing TDs allowed (3).

Given Napoleon Harris' familiarity with the Cover 2 defense and the Vikings in particular, would the Vikings consider bringing him back now that E.J. is out for the season?

-- Derek S., South St. Paul

At this point, it would surprise me if the Vikings signed Harris to fortify their LB position. The Vikings are in a much better position this year to deal with E.J. Henderson’s injury than they were last year. It’s a tremendous advantage that Jasper Brinkley has been with the club since April because he’s really been able to settle into the position and prepare himself for this opportunity. Having Brinkley on the roster and completely up to speed on the defense has prevented the Vikings from having to go out and sign a guy like Harris to start at middle LB. In addition, Heath Farwell being healthy this year adds depth to the LB position.

What do you attribute to the rebirth of Penn State's Jimmy Kennedy now that he is in Minnesota?

-- Roger H. Milroy, MN

Kennedy has been an important part of the Vikings defense because he’s been inserted into the DT rotation and is a capable contributor when he’s on the field. I think they key to his success in his role as a Viking has been the number of snaps he’s received. Because he’s not in on every play, he has that much more energy for the snaps he does see. The same can be said for Pat Williams. Because guys like Kennedy, Fred Evans and Letroy Guion can be inserted to give Pat a breather, Pat has more energy for the snaps he does see.