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NFL Experts Weigh in on Expectations for Vikings Defense Under Brian Flores

The experts all agree: Brian Flores was an excellent hire by the Vikings.

Minnesota hired Flores as its defensive coordinator last month, and the addition has been well-revered by NFL media members around the league.

"I think it's great," NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah said this week at the NFL Scouting Combine. "When you get coaches with scouting backgrounds, I love it. Because it's different. You speak a little different language in scouting than you do in coaching. In scouting, you tend to look more long-term; coaching, you're thinking about today.

"I think he has the ability to [say], 'OK, this is what we need. Who can come in and help us? But let's keep the big picture in mind, as well,' " Jeremiah added.

Jeremiah was among multiple experts who spoke with Vikings Entertainment Network's Tatum Everett and Gabe Henderson this week. While they may not have all the same ideas for Minnesota's offseason, Jeremiah and his peers are well-aligned on two things: The Vikings defense needs to improve, and hiring Flores is a significant step toward that goal.

"In talking to people who have worked with him and know him really well, it's speaking about how he brings an intensity to the group; he brings an expectation to the group," Jeremiah told Everett. "You have to say, 'OK, where we were is not acceptable. Here's the standard; here's where we are; now let's get better.' "

CBS analyst Charles Davis acknowledged the Vikings made a number of big defensive plays – some of them game-clinchers – during the 2022 season, but he emphasized there still are multiple things that need to be addressed.

"Defense, defense, defense. I mean, there's no getting around it," Davis told Henderson. "Last year, they made enough plays on defense, especially late in ball games, that they survived some ball games. They did a really good job."


It's hard to ignore the fact that Minnesota ranked 31st in overall defense last season, allowing opponents an average of 388.7 yards per game. Teams averaged 25.1 points against the Vikings, which ranked 28th.

View photos from Thursday's NFL Scouting Combine on-field workouts at Lucas Oil Stadium.

"Numbers don't always tell the tale, but numbers can be significant," Davis said. "And their numbers just weren't very good on defense. How they survived it was takeaways … It's a dangerous way to live."

Jordan Reid, ESPN NFL Draft analyst, is looking forward to seeing how the Vikings adjust to a new scheme under Flores.

"Now you completely turn the volume notches up, the aggressive notches up, with Brian Flores," Reid said. "He wants to play man coverage, but in order to play man coverage, you have to have guys that are capable of doing that."

Reid mentioned Andrew Booth, Jr., and Akayleb Evans, both rookies last year, as players able to play that type of defense, but he also noted repeated injuries that sidelined them during their rookie campaigns.

"And then we'll see what happens with Patrick Peterson, if he's back," Reid said. "Right now, I still think they need some depth in that room. Duke Shelley was a great find for them, too. But I think in that room, I think you need one more young body."

View photos of Brian Flores during his first day as Vikings Defensive Coordinator at TCO Performance Center on Feb. 15.

Shelley's contract is set to expire at the start of the new league year, but he and the Vikings have the option to work out a deal.

The Vikings currently are slated to draft from the 23rd overall spot.

Should they remain there, Reid suggested they target Maryland CB Deonte Banks. As a senior in 2022, Banks totaled 38 tackles (25 solo), an interception, eight passes defensed and a shared sack.

"He's one that I would put a gold star beside if I were Vikings fans. I think he's going to see a familiar name that you see projected to the Vikings," Reid said.

He added that if Vikings General Manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah opts to trade out of the first round and into the early second in order to add draft stock, Minnesota could target Miami CB Tyrique Stevenson.

"He's another that performed really well at the Senior Bowl," Reid said of Stevenson. "He checks a lot of those boxes that Brian Flores looks for in a man-to-man scheme."

Regardless of whether it's through free agency or the draft, Reid believes the Vikings should focus first on the defensive line and make sure everything is squared-away in the trenches before addressing other positions.

"I think for the Vikings, they need to build inside-out. You already have – we'll see what happens with Dalvin Tomlinson, if he's able to come back," said Reid, who added that Minnesota currently has Danielle Hunter and Za'Darius Smith as starting edge rushers.

Should Hunter and Smith remain with the team, though, Minnesota still needs more depth on the edge.

"Pat Jones [II] is gonna come along, I think, really nicely," Reid said, "but I still think they need that big run stuffer in the middle, like Mazi Smith from Michigan; I think he would be a really good option. Or maybe Siaki Ika from Baylor – he's another option, too."

NFL Network's Tom Pelissero also addressed the Vikings defensive line and, in particular, Hunter's fit in Flores' system.

"Danielle Hunter can fit in virtually anything," Pelissero told Everett. "Though I don't know that last year's scheme was necessarily the best fit for him. You know, there were times where he was dropping and he was learning how to play out of a two-point stance, which is different than what we've seen Danielle do through the years here.

"Brian Flores' background is in New England. New England is not a scheme defense; it is a game-plan defense. It's about adapting," Pelissero continued. "And that was a big thing for Kevin O'Connell last year, too, because I know that there was some frustration about just the lack of designed pressures. I don't want to say lack of creativity, but you weren't proactively trying to heat up the opposing quarterback. Now this is going to be a different type of a scheme."