Kevin O’Connell’s Former Teammate Joins Vikings Coaching Staff

Kevin O'Connell, Minnesota Vikings

Getty Head coach Kevin O'Connell of the Minnesota Vikings.

The Minnesota Vikings’ on-field decisions are getting most of the attention this offseason. But their moves on the sidelines can be just as impactful.

Their latest addition could be really good news for their defensive linemen.

“Sources say Broncos DL coach Marcus Dixon is expected to leave for Minnesota and become the Vikings’ new DL coach,” ESPN’s Dan Graziano reported in a post on X, formerly Twitter, on February 9.

Dixon, 39, was an undrafted free agent out of Hampton in 2010. He spent three seasons in the NFL and made 22 appearances with the New York Jets from 2010 through 2012.

He was also a member of the 2021 Los Angeles Rams Super Bowl-winning team. Dixon spent the last two seasons with the Broncos, first under former head coach Nathaniel Hackett and then Sean Payton this past season.

Denver logged the seventh-fewest sacks in 2022 and the ninth-fewest sacks this past season.

They finished below the Vikings in both seasons. But Dixon is also credited with helping develop the Broncos’ younger linemen and instilling toughness in the entire group.

“[The ‘Dark Side’ is] something Coach Dixon created for our defensive unit, mainly the d-line,” Broncos tackle D.J. Jones told reporters when asked about the phrase being used among the players in August 2022. “But it’s something we break down, something we live by now.

“You got to go to a dark place when you step on that field, so it’s ‘Dark Side’ forever.”

Dixon worked with Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell with the Rams in 2020 and 2021, and the two were also teammates on the Jets in 2010.

Vikings Give Kevin O’Connell’s Assistant Another Title

Mike Pettine, Minnesota Vikings

GettyMike Pettine of the Cleveland Browns.

Dixon wasn’t the only coaching change for the Vikings on the day, with the team also announcing that Assistant Head Coach Mike Pettine will be assuming the role of linebackers coach full-time starting next season.

Entering his third season as Vikings assistant head coach, Pettine coached linebackers with the Baltimore Ravens from 2004 through 2008.

He was also the defensive coordinator of the Jets when Dixon and O’Connell were there.

Pettine originally assumed the duties from former outside linebackers coach and pass-rush specialist Mike Smith in September 2023, after the latter took a personal leave of absence. Imarjaye Albury helped Pettine in his duties taking over for Smith.

Former Vikings HC Lands DC Job With Cowboys

Mike Zimmer, Minnesota Vikings

GettyHead coach Mike Zimmer of the Minnesota Vikings.

Following the departure of Dan Quinn to the Washington Commanders, former Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer has replaced him as defensive coordinator for the Dallas Cowboys. Zimmer coached the Vikings for eight seasons from 2014 through 2021.

Perhaps the most intriguing part of this is what it could mean for Vikings free agent pass rusher Danielle Hunter. He began his career under Zimmer.

Dallas is $14.3 million over the cap, per Spotrac, leaving them worse off than the Vikings.

However, they could make an argument that they are one key piece like Hunter away from getting over the hump in the postseason and position themselves to make a run. Hunter went to high school in Texas and finished with a career-best 16.5 sacks last season.