Minnesota Vikings coach Mike Zimmer is all about doing the small things right, and it showed in 2019.
The Vikings were the best team at wrapping up ball carriers on contact, committing the fewest amount of missed tackles (85) in 2019, according to Pro Football Focus. The other teams behind the Vikings all have seen plenty of success, showing the Vikings defense was in a good place last season.
Fewest Missed Tackles by teams in 2019:
1. Vikings – 85
2. Patriots – 93
3. Ravens – 99
4. Saints – 100 pic.twitter.com/dl4EQt0SQq
— PFF (@PFF) July 4, 2020
The New England Patriots defense, that’s remained a staple of Bill Belichek’s success not named Tom Brady, followed with 93 missed tackles. Then came the Baltimore Ravens (99) and New Orleans Saints (100). All three other teams won their divisions last season.
While finishing a tackle is a team effort, two Vikings did stand out in contributing to the team’s NFL-leading stat.
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Anthony Barr and Danielle Hunter Among NFL’s Strongest Tacklers
As the Vikings third- and fourth-leading tacklers, Anthony Barr and Danielle Hunter, respectively, rarely missed. Barr, who had 79 combined tackles, logged a 2.5 percent missed tackle rate that was third in the NFL, followed by Hunter at 2.8 percent. The duo was vital for containing opposing offenses on the perimeter of the box, missing just two tackles each.
Their success plays largely in part to their large size and arm length. Hunter’s 34.25-inch arm length is in the 74th percentile among defensive ends. Barr, standing at 6-foot-5, is one of the biggest linebackers in the NFL. His height and weight rank above the 90th percentile in the NFL, along with his arm length in the 86 percentile, according to Mockdraftable.com.
Middle linebacker Eric Kendricks, who earned All-Pro Honors last season, led the Vikings with 110 tackles but struggled wrapping up as a smaller, coverage linebacker. He had 10 missed tackles in the regular season at an 8.3 percent clip.
Linebacker Eric Wilson filled in well as a six-game starter, missing only 3.1 percent of his tackles.
Vikings Are Top Five in Two Other Key Winning Categories
Missed tackles are just one piece of the formula for a successful football team. University of Minnesota coach P.J. Fleck, who led the Gophers to their most victories in 120 years and a bowl-win against SEC powerhouse Auburn in his third year at the helm of the program, laid out two other categories that are key to winning: turnover margin and explosive plays.
The Vikings happened to rank well in both, tying for fourth in explosive plays (11 percent) and turnover margin (+11) in 2019. These ranks come to no surprise as Dalvin Cook was ranked the most-explosive running back in the league last season and Anthony Harris tied for the NFL’s lead in interceptions with six picks.
Wrapping up could remain the Vikings’ forté after they finished second to the Patriots in 2018 and retain most of their defensive interior. The explosive plays may be hard to come by without Stefon Diggs and potentially Dalvin Cook, who is still holding out from team activities.
Follow Trevor Squire on Twitter: @trevordsquire