The Vikings finished the 2012 season with a 10-6 record and advanced to the playoffs, and their defense was rated 17th in the NFL. But as they get ready to face the Giants on Monday, the Vikings are 1-4 and rank 31st in total defense. Only the Eagles are lower.
Jared Allen, who ranks among the best defensive lineman in the NFL with 120.5 sacks in 146 games, talked about the difference between last year’s defense and this year’s unit.
“Winfield was a huge part of our defense,” Allen said of Antoine Winfield, who was let go and is a free agent. “Always has been. Not having him obviously hurts.”
There have been rumors that the Vikings have talked to Winfield about coming back but that his salary demands are too high.
“I can’t put my finger on it,” Allen said about the team’s four losses, which have included giving up two game-winning drives in the final minutes and a thrashing by the Panthers last weekend.
“I hope someone knows what’s going on and I hope they fix it because it’s embarrassing.”
The defense has to improve, right?
“I think that’s stating the obvious. I’m with you on that,” he said.
When Allen was asked what had to be corrected, he said it was probably numerous issues.
“It always comes down to little things, being assignment-sound, doing the job, guys being accountable for themselves, showing up on time, doing their job, stuff like that,” he said. “If we can get back to doing the basic things maybe we can improve. At this point it has to be the little things to create big changes.”
Allen believes the team has the leadership to set those examples.
“Anybody that knows me knows that’s what I’m going to do,” he said. “We have good leaders: [Chad] Greenway, [Kevin] Williams, they’re going to show up, they’re going to work, and that’s what they do.”
Allen was asked about the team’s quarterback controversy.
“I think whenever you have an opportunity to try to win, you do that,” he said about the team signing Josh Freeman. “Obviously it’s at a key position and that shakes some things up, and I’m glad I’m not in the position to have to deal with it. I’m just at the position to try to continue to play a high level and help our defense to continue to get better as we go along.
“Whoever is going to play at quarterback, it’s going to be. Obviously Christian [Ponder] has a great rapport with the guys in the locker room, everybody loves [Matt] Cassel, and Josh has come in and he’s been humble. Obviously playing against him, guys in the locker room who have played against him, have respect for him. He’s obviously a talented individual.”
Lastly Allen was asked about his future with the team, after the other starting defensive end, Brian Robison, signed a long-term deal last week. Allen and Everson Griffen, a promising young defensive end, will be free agents after this year.
“Honestly, I don’t know,” he said. “That’s not even my focus right now. Me and the Vikings are on the same page. We’ll deal with that at the right time, and right now we’re just trying to win football games.
“I love the Minnesota Vikings. I love the organization, the community. It has been great for my life. Like I said, wherever the good Lord takes me, that’s where we’ll be, whether it’s here, somewhere else, we’ll deal with that at the appropriate time.”