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.”