Preseason expectations

The Vikings made big bets on stability this offseason, with Mike Zimmer asking Gary Kubiak to step from an advisory role to offensive coordinator after the Browns made Kevin Stefanski their head coach. With George Edwards leaving for Dallas, the Vikings promoted Andre Patterson and Adam Zimmer to a shared coordinator role. Daronte Jones came from Cincinnati, where he worked for Mike Zimmer’s old boss Marvin Lewis. And ownership gave new deals to Zimmer and General Manager Rick Spielman, extending their partnership through 2023. Especially with the coronavirus pandemic wiping out much of the offseason schedule, the Vikings believed they’d have an advantage because of their stability, while working with a group of young players to remake the defense in real time.

Where they are

The Vikings’ 1-5 start came with plenty of defensive issues as a young secondary got its first game action against the likes of Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson and Matt Ryan. The defense ranks 30th in the league in passing yards allowed, as injuries have created even more of a challenge for the defensive staff. “I said this to some of the defensive coaches today, ‘We might be doing our best job coaching we’ve done, and we’re still giving up 400 yards a game,’ ” Zimmer said last week. Kubiak’s offense is ranked 12th in the league in points and 10th in yards, but some of the production has come with the Vikings trying to rally late in games, either after opponents have scored on the defense or turnovers have harmed the Vikings’ offensive efforts.

coach to watch

Zimmer. The Vikings’ back-to-back wins over the Packers and Lions have muted some criticism about the team’s decision to give him a new contract before training camp, rather than letting the final year of his deal play out. But a strong second half would certainly help his case, both in the public eye and (more importantly) in the minds of ownership, as the Vikings try to keep enthusiasm for the team high in a year without fans in the stands.

Notable number

10 Years since Zimmer’s defense has finished 20th or worse in the league in points allowed with him as the head coach or defensive coordinator. The 2010 Bengals finished 24th in scoring defense and 15th in yards allowed; Zimmer has led just six defenses in 20 seasons as a head coach or coordinator that have finished 20th or worse. The 2020 Vikings defense is 25th in points allowed and 29th in yards allowed.

BEN GOESSLING