Matt Vensel is in his first year at the Star Tribune after covering the Ravens for the Baltimore Sun for six years. He is a Pittsburgh native and a Penn State grad. Follow him at @mattvensel.


Mark Craig has covered the NFL for 23 years, and the Vikings since 2003 for the Star Tribune. He is one of 44 Pro Football Hall of Fame selectors. Follow him at @markcraignfl.


Master Tesfatsion is the Star Tribune’s digital Vikings writer. He is a 2013 graduate of Arizona State and worked for mlb.com before arriving in Minneapolis. Follow him at @masterstrib.


Greenway: `We're not going to sit back and let people throw darts at us'

Posted by: Mark Craig under NFC Updated: May 15, 2014 - 9:22 AM

We came up with nine reasons that could explain why Vikings linebacker Chad Greenway sounded so excited about his team’s decision to play a more aggressive style of defense in 2014.

Each involves where the Vikings’ defense ranked defensively a year ago. Here goes:

  • . Touchdown passes per game: 2.3, last.
  • . First downs passing per game: 15.4, last.
  • . Completions allowed per game: 26.2, last.
  • . Points allowed per game: 30.0, last.
  • . Opponents’ time of possession: 33:18, 31st.
  • . Passing yards allowed per game: 287.2, 31st.
  • . Opponents’ third-down percentage: 44, 30th.
  • . Opponents’ passer rating: 98.7, 30th.
  • . Opponents’ first-down completion percentage: 67.1, 29th.
  • . Blown saves in the final minute of regulation: 5, pretty darn sure no one topped that one.

With those stats in mind, we talked to Greenway after one of the minicamp practices earlier this month. He’s the perfect player to offer perspective since he arrived as a first-round draft pick in 2006, the same year then-new head coach Brad Childress hired Mike Tomlin to implement the Cover 2-based defensive scheme. The Vikings essentially ran that same read-and-react system for eight seasons – coming within a Brett Favre pick of reaching the Super Bowl during the 2009 season -- until it was KO’d when a 5-10-1 season cost Leslie Frazier his job and ushered in Mike Zimmer’s high-pressure, multiple-look defense.

Greenway spoke before the Vikings used seven of their 10 draft picks, including the ninth overall selection on UCLA linebacker Anthony Barr. The terminology in the Cover 2 and Zimmer’s defense is different, but the bottom line is Greenway and Barr should end up starting together at the outside linebacker positions in the base. Look for Greenway to move to the middle in the nickel, which would be a new role for him, although he has played the middle in the dime. He also wouldn’t have deep middle responsibilities as much, if at all, in Zimmer’s defense.

Here are the highlights of our conversation with Greenway:

Q: If you boil it down, is it safe to say this defense plays `forward’ while the previous defense often played `backward’ in a read-and-react mode?

CG: “That’s probably a good way of putting it. We’re not just sitting back and letting people throw darts at us. We’re matching up people. We’re playing a downhill, aggressive defense.”

Q: As a player, do you like that approach more?

CG: “We’re certainly not going to sit back on our heels and let people mess with us.”

Q: You were the strong-side guy in the previous defense. What will your role be in the new defense? (Zimmer has since explained that Greenway’s previous role would equate to what his defensive terminology calls the weak-side backer)

CG: “The names are different. We’re going to be doing some different things we haven’t seen before around here since I’ve been here. But we’ll talk about that later. Just wait. You’ll see.”

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Houston - LP: D. Keuchel 0 FINAL
NY Yankees - WP: B. McCarthy 3
Cleveland - LP: C. Kluber 1 FINAL
Minnesota - WP: P. Hughes 4
Detroit - LP: D. Price 0 FINAL
Tampa Bay - WP: A. Cobb 1
Arizona - LP: O. Perez 0 FINAL
Washington - WP: R. Soriano 1
San Francisco - LP: R. Vogelsong 1 FINAL
Chicago Cubs - WP: T. Wada 2
Atlanta - WP: J. Teheran 8 FINAL
Cincinnati - LP: D. Holmberg 0
LA Angels - WP: M. Shoemaker 2 FINAL
Boston - LP: R. De La Rosa 0
San Francisco - WP: M. Bumgarner 5 FINAL
Chicago Cubs - LP: T. Wood 3
San Diego - LP: T. Ross 1 FINAL
Los Angeles - WP: C. Kershaw 2
Pittsburgh 21 FINAL
Philadelphia 31
Carolina 6:30 PM
New England
NY Giants 6:30 PM
NY Jets
Jacksonville 6:30 PM
Detroit
Oakland 7:00 PM
Green Bay
Chicago 9:00 PM
Seattle
Tampa Bay 8/23/14 3:30 PM
Buffalo
Tennessee 8/23/14 6:00 PM
Atlanta
Dallas 8/23/14 6:00 PM
Miami
Washington 8/23/14 6:30 PM
Baltimore
New Orleans 8/23/14 7:00 PM
Indianapolis
Minnesota 8/23/14 7:00 PM
Kansas City
St. Louis 8/23/14 7:00 PM
Cleveland
Houston 8/23/14 8:00 PM
Denver
San Diego 8/24/14 3:00 PM
San Francisco
Cincinnati 8/24/14 7:00 PM
Arizona
(21) Texas A&M 8/28/14 5:00 PM
(9) So Carolina
Wake Forest 8/28/14 6:00 PM
ULM
Boise State 8/28/14 7:00 PM
(18) Ole Miss
Tulane 8/28/14 7:00 PM
Tulsa
Temple 8/28/14 8:15 PM
Vanderbilt
Rutgers 8/28/14 9:00 PM
Washington St
Weber State 8/28/14 9:30 PM
(19) Arizona State
Montreal 7:30 PM
Winnipeg
Toronto 8/23/14 3:00 PM
Edmonton
Calgary 8/24/14 2:00 PM
Ottawa
Saskatchewan 8/24/14 6:00 PM
Brt Columbia
Ottawa 8/29/14 6:30 PM
Montreal
Winnipeg 8/31/14 2:00 PM
Saskatchewan
Toronto 9/1/14 12:00 PM
Hamilton
Edmonton 9/1/14 3:30 PM
Calgary
Washington 73 FINAL
Indiana 78
San Antonio 84 FINAL
Minnesota 88
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Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 preseason     
Aug 8 - vs. Oakland 7 pmX10-6
Aug 16 - vs. Arizona 7:30 pmX30-28
Aug 23 - at Kansas City 7 pm
Aug 28 - at Tennessee 7 pm
2014 regular season     
Sep 7 - at St. Louis Noon
Sep 14 - vs. New England Noon
Sep 21 - at New Orleans Noon
Sep 28 - vs. Atlanta 3:25 pm
Oct 2 - at Green Bay 7:25 pm
Oct 12 - vs. Detroit Noon
Oct 19 - at. Buffalo Noon
Oct 26 - at Tampa Bay Noon
Nov 2 - vs. Washington Noon
Nov 9 - Bye
Nov 16 - at Chicago Noon
Nov. 23 - vs. Green Bay Noon
Nov. 30 - vs. Carolina Noon
Dec 7 - vs. NY Jets Noon
Dec 14 - at Detroit Noon
Dec 21 - at Miami Noon
Dec 28 - vs. Chicago Noon

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