There's been a lot of questions asked about the Vikings' re-tooled defense, which will have five new starters in 2020. The unit is going to have to rely on some young players at cornerback and on the defensive line, which could theoretically result in growing pains early on in the season.
However, the Vikings don't all see it that way. Veteran safety Harrison Smith gave a great answer a couple weeks ago when asked about a potential defensive drop-off in production.
"I guess I’ve kind of been out of the loop," Smith said. "I didn’t know we were supposed to be bad."
Mike Zimmer doesn't think they're going to be bad either. Both he and co-defensive coordinator Andre Patterson have said they like being doubted – that it's motivating. In early August, Zimmer said he was fired up to prove people wrong.
"It gets you rejuvenated to go out and, honestly, people say, ‘Hey, they’re not going to be good on defense.’ OK, well, let’s find out. Let’s go prove it. That’s kind of the approach that we’re taking."
On Tuesday, Zimmer doubled down on his belief that the Vikings are going to have a good defense in 2020. NFL Network's Tom Pelissero referenced Smith's quote while asking Zimmer about the challenge of replacing some of the departed veterans on that side of the ball.
"Well I've vever had a bad defense, ever," Zimmer said. "So I don't anticipate that changing."
As Chris Tomasson points out, that's not technically true.
But the overall sentiment is accurate. Zimmer has been a defensive coordinator or head coach in every season since 2000, and the vast majority of his defenses have been among the league's best. Zimmer only spent one season with the Falcons in between long stints as the DC in Dallas and Cincinnati. Since becoming the Vikings' head coach in 2014, Zimmer's units have never ranked worse than 11th in points allowed, including three top-five finishes.
There's certainly a path to another strong performance from the Vikings defense in 2020. Danielle Hunter, Eric Kendricks, Anthony Barr, Anthony Harris, and Smith are all veteran stars. Ifeadi Odenigbo might be able to replace Everson Griffen without much of a drop-off. And the Vikings' young corners – including rookies Cameron Dantzler and Jeff Gladney – have started out strong in training camp.
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