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Good to Great: The Dom Capers Influence

Tanishka Mhaskar

The Minnesota Vikings defense has faced plenty of ups and downs in the last few years. They went from the league's best just two years ago to a steady decline which included falling out of the top ten statistically this year. It was almost quite clear that some kind of change was needed.

Head Coach Mike Zimmer chose to clean the house in regards to the coaching staff, hiring new people to run almost all positions on the defense. Similar to what he did a year ago by hiring Gary Kubiak and company to reinvent the offense, Zimmer hired former Packers and Jaguars coach Dom Capers as a defensive advisor. 

Now, most people will be quick to blow this off as a terrible hire as Capers’ defenses have mightily struggled in recent years, however, Capers’ role with this team will be revolving around bringing new ideas to the table. He runs a 3-4  defense which is the complete opposite of the primary 4-3 that Zimmer prides himself in. 

In his career, Capers has run multiple top ten defenses, and a common denominator in those defenses is usually a star pass rusher, an outside linebacker. Some superstars that Capers developed include Kevin Greene, Lamar Lathon and Julius Peppers. 

For the Vikings, this star player could be Anthony Barr. When he was drafted, many thought he would pass rush more than he has. Even after he declined a contract from the New York Jets, who tried to lure him by promising him he would get to play like he did in college, his pass rushing snaps did not see an increase.

In this copy-cat league, it’s always essential to come up with new ideas, and the VIkings could look to Capers to create some of those 3-4 fronts and essentially run almost as much 3-4 as they do 4-3.

When you look at the personnel of this team, you see the two stud defensive ends in Everson Griffen and Danielle Hunter who have been tremendous for so long, but many questions linger with Griffen’s future with the team as his cap hit is upwards of 12 million dollars for the 2020 season. 

Behind Hunter and Griffen, Minnesota has Ifeadi Odengibo who broke out in 2019 but if Griffen leaves the Vikings lose a big part of their rotation.

This is where Capers comes in. His 3-4 scheme could lead to the Vikings unleashing Barr and his pass rushing capabilities, and also giving linebackers Eric Wilson and Ben Gedeon an increased opportunity. Wilson fits the 3-4 scheme just as well as Barr and seeing him rush the passer more could enhance this Vikings defense.

After a brilliant 2017 campaign, the rest of the league sort of figured out the Zimmer defense. If the VIkings want to take the next step to become a great team, the first step is to get the defense on track, and that starts with creativity. As Capers said during his press conference last week, “The more familiar people become with it, you have to look and try to find the next best thing.”

The different types of players this team is set to have under contract next season gives them a multitude of ways to get creative to really let their defense take the next step, which in turn lets the team take the next step.