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Defense Rising? Vikings on the Right Track

Can the Vikings defense climb to a top-10 ranking in offensive points allowed just one season removed from ranking last in the League in that category? It might sound crazy, but it's not unprecedented.

Five teams in the past three seasons have ranked in the top 10 in points allowed after ranking 25th or worst the season prior. This list of teams includes the 2013 New Orleans Saints, who jumped from 32nd in 2012 to fifth last season.

2013 Saints: Ranked 32nd in 2012 and 5th in 2013
2013 Chiefs: Ranked 25th in 2012 and 6th in 2013

2011 Jaguars: Ranked 28th in 2010 and 10th in 2011
2011 Seahawks: Ranked 26th in 2010 and 5th in 2011
2011 Texans: Ranked 30th in 2010 and 4th in 2011

So what's the key to this kind of marked improvement? In looking at the five teams who've done it, there are varying factors. But there are also some constants. For example, the 2013 Chiefs (Sean Smith), 2013 Saints (Keenan Lewis) and 2011 Texans (Johnathan Joseph) all signed a cornerback who started 15 games and all had a new defensive coordinator and new defensive scheme (Wade Phillips, Texans; Rob Ryan, Saints; Bob Sutton, Chiefs). Also, both the Saints (S Kenny Vaccaro, No. 15) and Texans (DE JJ Watt, No. 11) used a first-round pick on a defensive starter.

This is all good news for the Vikings prospects in 2014. Yes, the Vikings ranked last in offensive points allowed in 2013. But Mike Zimmer brings a new defensive coordinator with him to Minnesota – George Edwards – and, hence, a new defensive scheme. The Vikings also signed a cornerback – Captain Munnerlyn – who should start 15 games this season. And then you have Anthony Barr, an explosive outside linebacker acquired with the ninth overall selection in this year's draft.

Judging by precedent, there's reason to be optimistic the Vikings can join the Chiefs and Saints of 2013 and the Jaguars, Seahawks and Texans of 2011 as teams who jump from the bottom of the League to the top in offensive points allowed.

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