Before the season, Pro Football Focus rated each team's secondary. The Vikings landed at a respectable seventh.
But six weeks into the regular season, Minnesota's defensive backs have climbed up into the top spot.
The Vikings defense, thanks in part to the secondary, is giving up a league-low 12.6 points per game. Minnesota has also made life hard for opposing quarterbacks, as the Vikings have limited them to a combined quarterback rating of 65.3, tops in the NFL.
Minnesota also ranks first in yards per pass play (5.25) and is tied for third with 19 sacks, a stat that is aided by strong coverage from the likes of Terence Newman, Xavier Rhodes, Captain Munnerlyn, Trae Waynes, Harrison Smith and Andrew Sendejo.
Pro Football Focus wrote:
Heading into the season, we knew this group would be good, but through five games, they are exceeding even high expectations. Harrison Smith is still arguably the best overall safety in the game. Despite having a plethora of young talent at cornerback, Terence Newman has graded the highest in coverage out of the CB group, and his 0.54 yards per cover snap allowed is the second-lowest mark among corners with at least 100 snaps in coverage this year.
Waynes leads the Vikings with two interceptions while Rhodes, Sendejo and Newman each have one.
Joseph has added technique to dominant skill set
Vikings nose tackle Linval Joseph can use numerous avenues of skill to find success on the football field.
Sometimes it's power, sometimes it's speed and sometimes it's brute strength.
But when Jenny Vrentas of The Monday Morning Quarterback recently profiled Joseph, she found his technique is another element that allows him to stand out.
Vrentas reported that Joseph played a pair of positions while he was with the Giants. But when he arrived in Minnesota, Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer kept 'Big Goon' in one spot.
The Vikings decided to play him exclusively at nose tackle, keeping him glued to the center's outside shoulder. This allowed him to hone the techniques and responsibilities of one position. (Vikings defensive line coach Andre) Patterson taught Joseph how to use his hands and arms as levers, something he'd done only sporadically in New York. Joseph also learned where to place his hands based on an opponent's blocking scheme. He might put both hands on one number of an offensive linemen's jersey; against a different scheme, he'll place his inside hand on the jersey number closest to him and his outside hand on the nearest shoulder. "Once he's able to get his hands in the right spots, he is able to control that guy," Patterson says, "and once he gets him under control, it's over, because now he has the ability to get off him and go make a play."
Joseph is tied for third on the Vikings with 32 total tackles and also has five tackles for loss. He is tied for the team lead with 4.0 sacks and has one forced fumble.
Zimmer receives praise as top coach
ESPN.com recently released its annual franchise rankings, in which each sports team is graded on a variety of topics.
One of them is coaching, and Zimmer was tabbed as the 15th-best coach across all sports.
ESPN.com reporter Ben Goessling said Zimmer's coaching style and demeanor, couples his success, has earned him plenty of fans.
Last year, Mike Zimmer became the first coach in NFL history to lead a team to a division title while playing in a temporary stadium. The Vikings' response? Giving Zimmer, originally on contract through 2017, an extension. Vikings fans, too, showed their love: Zimmer jumped 15 spots in these rankings, all the way to 15th overall. Fans have swooned over Zimmer's blunt, candid style, and under his leadership the Vikings jumped from 32nd to fifth in points against. The Vikings bowed out of the playoffs after one round last season, and if Zimmer patches together another playoff team after injuries to running back Adrian Peterson, left tackle Matt Kalil and quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, he may make believers out of the few remaining holdouts.
Zimmer is 23-14 in the regular season as Minnesota's head coach.