The Vikings new-look defense is off to a great start in 2014. In Friday's preseason opener against the Raiders, the first team defense was on the field for two series. In that time, the Raiders managed to run just seven offensive plays and gain only five net yards.
I went back and reviewed the film of the defense's first 27 snaps from Friday night. Below is a series-by-series look at how the defense and some of its individual members fared.
Outcome: Three-and-Out, 1 yard (punt)
Play 1 (1st and 15): Everson Griffen pressured Raiders quarterback Matt Schaub, the result of an outside-inside stunt he executed with Sharrif Floyd. Schaub threw incomplete down the right side, with Captain Munnerlyn providing blanket coverage and preventing the completion.
Play 3 (3rd and 9): The Vikings put eight men in the box and rushed five, with safety Harrison Smith blitzing from the right and linebacker Anthony Barr pressuring through the A gap. Oakland sat in a six-man protection and Schaub threw incomplete (short left).
Summary: After a false start penalty prior to the first snap, the Raiders were behind in the down-and-distance from the start and wound up calling three passing plays in this series. The Vikings rushed four on the first two snaps and then came with a five-man pressure on 3rd down.
Outcome: 4 plays, 4 yards (punt)
Play 1 (1st and 10): Raiders running back Maurice Jones-Drew took a handoff and cut back to his right. Defensive end Brian Robison stayed in position but was grabbed by the facemask, allowing Jones-Drew to run past him. Cornerback Captain Munnerlyn was there, though, and ended the play after a gain of seven yards. Sharrif Floyd was double-teamed, but kept his feet, fought off the blocks and forced Jones-Drew wide. Raiders tight end Brian Leonhardt was penalized 15 yards for the facemask of Robison.
Play 2 (1st and 17): Jones-Drew took a handoff and followed left guard Khalif Barnes through the A gap. Robison crashed to his right with effectiveness and prevented Barnes from getting to the second level to block Jasper Brinkley. This allowed Brinkley to run free and fill his gap, forcing Jones-Drew wider than he wanted and into the arms of Munnerlyn; Brinkley came to assist on the tackle.
Play 3 (2nd and 14): Swing pass to the right to Jones-Drew. Munnerlyn diagnosed and closed well, attacking the outside leg of Jones-Drew. Munnerlyn slipped, but safety Kurt Coleman was also there to end the play after a gain of eight.
Play 4 (3rd and 6): Oakland was in a trips right formation and the Vikings countered with their nickel package (Jabari Price came in the game). The Vikings put nine men on the line of scrimmage, but rushed just four of them. Chad Greenway ran down the middle of the field with tight end Mychal Rivera and caused an incompletion.
Summary: Robison's play on 1st down is what gave the Vikings an edge in this series. The 15-yard penalty set the Raiders back and allowed the Vikings to keep everything in front of them on 1st and 2nd down. Greenway was solid in coverage on the 3rd-down pass, and had the throw been on target and gotten past Greenway, Price was in position to apply a hit in an attempt to breakup the pass.
Other Notable Plays
-- Anthony Barr and Tom Johnson split a sack on the second play of the third series. Credit the coverage for providing the pass rush an extra beat to get to the quarterback. Defensive end Corey Wootton did a nice job of running with a tight end to force Schaub to look elsewhere before ultimately being sacked.
-- Coleman diagnosed a play-action bootleg on the third play of the third series to contain a completion to just seven yards, forcing a 3rd and 6 on the ensuing down.
-- Griffen drew a holding penalty thanks to an explosive outside move on the next snap, leading to a 3rd and 16 for Oakland.
-- On the 3rd and 16, defensive tackle Linval Joseph had good push up the middle and Floyd defeated a double team to force a quick throw from Schaub; Shaun Prater helped cause the incompletion when he jumped and got his hands between the pass and the intended receiver (Rivera).
-- Cornerback Derek Cox registered a pass breakup (PBU) on the fourth play of the fourth series.
-- On the eighth and 11th plays of the fourth series, rookie defensive tackle Shamar Stephen was impactful (assisted tackle and then good push on a pass rush).
-- Coleman intercepted quarterback Derek Carr to end the fourth series.