A worrying trend for Ed Donatel’s defenses

July 28, 2021; Englewood, CO, United States; Denver Broncos defensive coordinator Ed Donatel during training camp at the UCHealth Training Complex. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Vikings started their season off strong with a huge win over the Green Bay Packers, 23-7. Overall, every aspect of the game looked great for the team in purple. Justin Jefferson declared that he would be considered the best receiver in the NFL by the end of the season, and he backed it up. The Vikings defense constantly put pressure on Aaron Rodgers. Even on special teams, Greg Joseph kicked a 56-yard field goal.

It’s clear spirits are high heading into the Week 2 matchup in Philadelphia. Earlier this week, however, I picked Philly to win this game against the Vikings, and part of that reasoning has to do with the troubling trend of Ed Donatel’s defense.

First, some good

Before we get into the bad, let’s talk about the good. Ed Donatel has helped put together great defenses throughout his career as a defensive coordinator. That includes last year with the Denver Broncos, as that defense ranked third in points allowed in 2021.

Overall, Donatel’s defenses ranked in the top 14 in points allowed in seven of his 10 seasons as DC. In 2020 and 2021, the Vikings went 15-18 overall, while their defenses ranked 29th and 24th in points allowed. If Minnesota can even get their defense to be an average defense by Donatel’s standards, this should be a playoff team no matter what happens on Monday night. Keep that in mind as we get into the meat of this article.

Mobile QBs are Donatel’s kryptonite

As good as Donatelle’s defenses have been over the years, there is one big blemish on his resume: mobile defenders. Especially during his time in Denver, the Broncos had constant struggles to stop the run game against mobile QBs. It’s an ironic problem considering his defense practiced against one of the most dangerous dual-threat linebackers of all time when he was in Atlanta from 2004-06: Michael Vick.

However, you can go all the way back to his tenure with the Green Bay Packers to find battles against that specific brand of quarterbacks. Take the Daunte Culpepper era in Vikings football for example. In eight games from 2000-03 against Donatel’s Packers, the Vikings reached 150 yards or more six times. They eclipsed 190 yards four times and Culpepper had 40+ rushing yards four times. Overall, the Packers finished 5-3 against these Vikings, but in true Minnesota fashion, four of Green Bay’s wins were decided by one possession.

Most recently, Donatel’s Denver Broncos had tremendous trouble against dual-threat QBs. Jalen Hurts just last season led the Eagles to a 30-13 victory over the Broncos in Denver. Philly rushed for 216 yards in that game, and Hurts had 55 of them. In fact, the 2021 Broncos were 1-5 in games where the QB had 5+ rushing attempts. They were 6-5 in all other games.

For the Vikings to win on Monday night, they will need to be able to keep Jalen Hurts in the pocket. Part of this strategy may involve spying throughout the night. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers did an incredible job of turning it into a clean pass in their playoff game against him and it completely turned the game around. Minnesota needs to be able to do that to win this game because Hurts is a threat with his feet.

The Vikings should be fine in the long run

All in all, even if the Vikings defense gets crushed on Monday, it’s nothing to panic about. The defense should look much closer to the unit we saw in Week 1 on a regular basis. They have five games this season against QBs who have run the ball 70+ times in 2021, and two of those are against Justin Fields and the Chicago Bears.

In addition, the Vikings have the advantage of Kirk Cousins ‚Äč‚Äčleading their offense on Monday night; someone who has thrived in Philadelphia throughout his career. This should be an exciting game and we’ll see if Donatel can shake his trend against mobile QBs with talented players like Daniel Hunter, Eric Kendricks and Zadarius Smith on his side.

Do the Vikings have an above average offensive line?  The PFF article thinks so

Josh Frey is a Class of 2020 graduate of the College of Idaho with a BA in Creative Writing as well as minors in History, Human Biology and Journalism. When not writing about the NFL, Josh can often be found training for a marathon, playing video games, or rooting for the Milwaukee Brewers and Bucks. For more of his photos, NFL and more, check out his Twitter account: @Freyed_Chicken

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.