Running a base 3-4 defense for the first time since 1985, the Minnesota Vikings‘ troubles stopping the run of the past two seasons have gone unchanged despite the scheme shift.
Through three games this season, the Vikings defense has allowed an average of 137.7 rushing yards per game. The passing defense has also struggled, leading Minnesota to allow the third-most total yards of offense per game (413.3) in the NFL.
Improving the run defense is the first step to solving the defense’s woes, however, it’s no simple schematic fix.
The Vikings have question marks at the inside linebacker position that requires speed and instinct in the new defense — speed that veteran linebackers Eric Kendricks and Jordan Hicks haven’t shown with both linebackers entering the season at 30 years old.
Bleacher Report suggested a potential trade that could help remedy the Vikings run defense by adding an Atlanta Falcons Pro Bowl linebacker.
Vikings Land Falcons LB Deion Jones in Proposed Trade
Bleacher Report’s Kristopher Knox outlined a list of potential trades that could make sense ahead of the November 1 trade deadline. On his list was the Falcons trading linebacker Deion Jones, who was deemed a best fit with the Vikings.
Jones, a 2016 second-round pick, was a Rookie Defensive Rookie of the Year candidate coming out of LSU, tallying 108 combined tackles and snaring three interceptions, two of which he returned for touchdowns. Jones followed up a promising rookie year with a Pro Bowl 2017 season. He started in all 16 games, tallying 138 combined tackles and three interceptions as a do-it-all inside linebacker.
Jones maintained solid linebacker play through 2020, earning a four-year $57 million contract extension in 2019, before Dan Quinn was fired.
Amid the changes of a new scheme that has been deemed “one of the most complex” in the league under new Atlanta defensive coordinator Dean Pees, Jones struggled last season, posting a 34.6 Pro Football Focus defensive grade.
Jones is coming off shoulder surgery and has yet to play a game this season, but he is expected to return in a few weeks. He may not return in a Falcons jersey after Atlanta shopped him during the offseason, The Athetlic’s Jeff Schultz reported.
“If the winless Falcons keep losing, they may be inclined to eat the money and flip Jones for draft capital. That makes Jones, who logged 137 tackles and two sacks last season, an even more attractive option on the trade market,” Knox wrote. “The Minnesota Vikings, who have allowed an average of 5.3 yards per carry on the ground [through two weeks], could be interested in adding Jones.”
Jones was deemed a bounce-back candidate this season by Pro Football Focus given he’s had a full year to adopt the Falcons’ new defensive scheme.
However, if he were to land with the Vikings, he could play in a much more instinctive role that could showcase the 4.39 40-yard dash speed he flashed coming out of college. Jones carries just a $1.1 million base salary after the Falcons restructured his contract this offseason, making it easier to move him in a potential trade.
Other Remedies in the Run Game
The Vikings have a speedy inside linebacker in third-round pick Brian Asamoah.
Asamoah has shown strong tackling and closing speed throughout the preseason, and most recently, on a kickoff against the Detroit Lions last week.
While inside linebackers have responsibility in stopping the run, the Vikings are also without a true 3-4 nose tackle. Harrison Phillips has played admirably but is largely playing a spot outside his forte.
A true gap-eater like Linval Joseph, who is a free agent, or another bigger-bodied defensive tackle would serve better at the center of the defensive line, while Phillips and Dalvin Tomlinson play the five-technique.