Vikings’ Patrick Peterson Touts ‘Night & Day Difference’ Under Donatell Defense

Patrick Peterson

Getty Patrick Peterson described the "night and day difference" in the Vikings defense in the post-Mike Zimmer era.

Under offensive-minded head coach Kevin O’Connell, the Minnesota Vikings are expected to put forth one of the league’s most exciting offenses.

However, it’s the defense’s evolution out of the Mike Zimmer era that will have more impact in turning around the team’s two-year playoff drought.

Veteran cornerback Patrick Peterson, who has played under six different defensive coordinators, offered insight into the Vikings’ transition to a 3-4 base defense under defensive coordinator Ed Donatell, who received a high-praise comparison from Peterson.

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‘Night & Day Difference’ on Defense

VideoVideo related to vikings’ patrick peterson touts ‘night & day difference’ under donatell defense2022-07-21T16:18:45-04:00

Appearing on the All Things Covered podcast on July 21, Peterson, who tracked back through all the defenses he’s played in his 11-year career, put Donatell atop his defensive coordinator pedestal with Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, who was defensive coordinator with the Arizona Cardinals in 2013 and 2014 and was a candidate for the Vikings head coach position this past spring.

The Bucs and the Cardinals put together a cumulative record of 52-29 over five seasons with Bruce Arians at the helm and Bowles running the defense. Bowles’ defense has ranked in the top 10 in points allowed in four of those five seasons.

“Coach Ed, man. I talk about Todd Bowles all the time. Ed Donatell is up there with Todd,” Peterson said. “He don’t blitz a lot, but he’s gonna make the quarterback think. He’s going to make the quarterback spend that extra second worried about what he thought he saw. He does a good job disguising and making that quarterback’s first two seconds hard to get a beat on.”

That extra second will be valuable for the pass-rush, especially after what Peterson called a “big addition” in Green Bay Packers transplant Za’Darius Smith. Meanwhile, Peterson will help lead a young secondary featuring first-round pick Lewis Cine at safety and a young cornerbacks core.

“I think the defense is going to be a night and day difference in my opinion. Just to have the opportunity to line up and play football,” Peterson said. “There’s not many checks. Not many audibles. We’re forcing teams to beat us. We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel and come up with all these crazy blitzes, crazy zones, Line up and play football. At the end of the day that’s all you can do. Teams are going to move the ball up and down the field — just don’t allow them to score touchdowns. If you eliminate that, you’re going to have a great chance of winning. The scheme that we have, it’s going to put us in a position to successful from all levels [of the defense].”

While Zimmer is considered one of the league’s defensive masterminds, executing his defense was no easy task, especially in the past two years where the Vikings attempted their once-vaunted defense with rookies and one-year rental veterans alike.

Donatell will try to turn around the defense that, at times, played well, but struggled to execute in the clutch. Had Minnesota not allowed a touchdown in the final two minute of either half of their losses last season, the Vikings would have finished 15-2. If Donatell can correct that problem with a more intuitive defense, several of those losses could cut the Vikings way in the future.

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Dantzler Ready to Break Out

Despite finishing the season as Pro Football Focus‘ 17th-ranked cornerback, Cam Dantzler was relegated to a rotational role under veteran corner Bashaud Breeland and Peterson.

Dantzler was a young corner who couldn’t seem to win over Zimmer enough to trust him to overtake a starting spot over the veteran corners — even after Breeland proved to be one of the league’s worst corners.

Under the pretense of the Donatell defense that Peterson described, Dantzler may finally thrive with the new regime.

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