The Vikings defense struggled across the board in 2020.
But that unit could be in store for quite the bounce back season, according to Sheil Kapadia of The Athletic.
Kapadia recently unveiled his list of the projected best defenses for the 2021 season, and the respected NFL analyst had the Vikings at the very top of his rankings.
It's pretty simple to explain away the Vikings struggles last season. They had the third-worst injury luck of any defense, according to Football Outsiders' Adjusted Games Lost metric, and they had the most injured defensive line. The Vikings didn't get a single snap from edge defender Danielle Hunter or defensive tackle Michael Pierce.
This year, not only are both players back, but Minnesota added Dalvin Tomlinson and Sheldon Richardson. With Eric Kendricks and Anthony Barr still in the mix at linebacker, the Vikings project to have one of the league's top front sevens. There are some questions on the back end, but the Vikings added veterans Patrick Peterson, Bashaud Breeland and Mackensie Alexander to give themselves options at cornerback. Cameron Dantzler figures to improve in his second season.
The Vikings ranked 29th in the league with 29.7 points allowed per game last season and were 27th overall at 393.3 yards allowed per game.
Minnesota then went out and revamped its defense with veteran free-agency additions. Hunter, Pierce and Barr will also be key pieces in 2021 as that trio missed all or most of last season.
Plus, Kapadia added, the man who runs the Vikings defense is one of the best at his job in the league.
On paper, it's probably not the most talented group, but Coach Mike Zimmer is one of the smartest defensive minds in the NFL. The Vikings finished first, third and fourth in defensive efficiency from 2017 to 2019. Barring another bout of terrible injury luck, they're talented enough to get back into that range this season.
Vikings defenses have finished first in the league in yards and points allowed per game on three separate instances in team history.
Minnesota most recently did it in 2017 under Zimmer and also accomplished that feat in back-to-back seasons in 1969 and 1970.
Chicago landed at No. 9 in Kapadia's rankings, with Green Bay in the 16th spot and Detroit coming in at No. 28.
Hutchinson heads to Canton
There is a football game on tonight, as the Cowboys and Steelers will square off in the Hall of Fame Game in Canton, Ohio.
That means a select group of esteemed NFL names will be enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame this weekend, a group that includes former Vikings guard Steve Hutchinson.
View photos of Vikings legend Steve Hutchinson who will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Aug, 7, 2021.
Dave Campbell ofTheAssociated Press recently highlighted Hutchinson's stellar career, which began when he was the 17th overall pick in 2001 by Seattle.
Campbell wrote that Hutchinson's national profile grew even more when he put on the Purple.
With the Vikings, Hutchinson only got better. In his first year, Chester Taylor rushed for 1,216 yards. Then along came Adrian Peterson in 2007, when he set the all-time single-game rushing record (296 yards) and compiled over his first four years a rushing average of 1,445 yards and 13 touchdowns. Hutchinson took just one penalty over his first three seasons in Minnesota, a false start in 2007. According to Pro Football Reference data, he had 19 accepted infractions in his career and only 11 for holding.
When Brett Favre arrived in 2009, the Vikings had assembled a team that was even more potent than the 2005 Seahawks. They went all the way to the NFC Championship Game, infamously losing at New Orleans in overtime after a 12-men-in-the-huddle penalty preceded an ill-advised throw for an interception by Favre late in the fourth quarter when the Vikings were driving for the potential winning kick.
"We felt strongly enough that if we were able to make it on to the Super Bowl, there was no doubt that we would have won that game," Hutchinson said.
View photos of Vikings legend Steve Hutchinson at NFL Honors who was recognized after recently being elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Hutchinson, a seven-time Pro Bowler and five-time All-Pro selection, started 169 career games over 12 total NFL seasons.
He will officially be enshrined Saturday night when the Class of 2020 is celebrated.
Vikings Entertainment Network will be on site to cover the festivities.