What is the value of continuity to an NFL team from one season to the next?
ESPN's Ben Goessling and Kevin Seifert approached the topic with some numbers crunched by ESPN Stats and Information.
*The Vikings' defense made a significant jump in its first year under Zimmer, and now that the coach has a foundation with his defensive group, he can use the continuity to add some wrinkles to the scheme, trusting his players are fluent in it. *
*There's a noticeable mark of that strategy as the Vikings head into 2015. According to ESPN Stats and Information, no team retained a higher percentage of its 2014 defensive snaps than the Vikings, who brought back players who received 94 percent of their playing time. The only significant departure on defense was at middle linebacker, where the Vikings let Jasper Brinkley leave in free agency. Otherwise, the entire group returns in 2015, and the Vikings spent their first three draft picks on players they hope can help the group in 2015. *
Overall from 2014, the Vikings lost 3,439 snaps of experience and brought in 2,787 snaps via free agency for a net loss of 652. The high percentage of snaps for returning Vikings defenders could be on a collision course with NFC North rival Green Bay, which, according to the report, had a net addition of zero on offense and defense, and has retained a league-high 95 percent of their 2014 offensive snaps.
Instead of looking that far in advance to Nov. 22 at TCF Bank Stadium or the Jan. 3 regular season finale at Lambeau, the Vikings season-opener on Sept. 14 at San Francisco will be against a 49ers team with the highest net loss of snaps since the 2014 finale. The 49ers added 3,031 snaps, but retirements of four players and free agency resulted in a loss of 8,728 for a negative net of 5,697 and have a league-low 61 percent of snaps returning on defense.
In addition to the four retirements, the 49ers allowed nearly a half-dozen veterans to depart via free agency: guard Mike Iupati, cornerbacks Chris Culliver and Perrish Cox and, running back Frank Gore and linebacker Dan Skuta. Offensive lineman Jonathan Martin and receiver Stevie Johnson were released.
(The 49ers did acquire free-agent receiver Torrey Smith and defensive lineman Darnell Dockett, among others, but their arrivals only partially mitigated the 49ers' net losses.)
Tim Yotter of Viking Update asks Jabari Price about working at nickel and corner and playing for a head coach in Mike Zimmer with strong attention to DB details. Price told Yotter:
"He brings more than just defensive coordinator to the table. Coming from your head coach, it's not often you find a defensive back head coach, so every day it's 'turn this toe in' or 'too many steps,'" Price said of Zimmer's regular advice. "So when you have your defensive coordinator, position coach and your head coach on you, it's kind of hard to mess up with everybody keying in on what you do. With all those eyes on me, it's making it much easier for me to eliminate those rookie mistakes."
Vikings teammates joined 2014 Vikings Community Man of the Year Chad Greenway at a golf tournament Monday to raise money for Greenway's Lead The Way Foundation. Greenway shared some laughs and sank the final putt.