Sunday, December 24, 2023

Brian Flores's Novel Defensive Scheme


ESPN - "How adopting a college defense has fueled Vikings' turnaround"
By Kevin Seifert

"In his first season with the Vikings, Flores has achieved a rare feat: concocting a new NFL scheme with almost no one noticing. Flores revealed in a recent ESPN interview that he incorporated a version of the defense popularized at the college level by Pittsburgh coach Pat Narduzzi, one that combines a six-man front with versions of zone coverage behind it.

NFL teams historically use man coverage behind loaded fronts, and no one ESPN reached out to could remember a defense that consistently did otherwise. The Vikings have capitalized on those unconventional foundations, added some of Flores' exotic blitz theories and built one of the league's most effective groups. Since the start of Week 4, when some rough early-season moments required significant fine-tuning, Flores' defense has ranked as a top 5 defense, coinciding with the team winning six of their last nine games.


The scheme has fooled offenses, sometimes to comic levels. During a game last month in Atlanta, Vikings safety Josh Metellus heard a Falcons coach yelling at him. Over and over, the coach told Metellus he had decoded the Vikings' scheme and knew what was coming.

"He was completely wrong every time he said it," Metellus said. "Nobody understands what we're doing."


The Vikings' staff held the nature of the concepts largely in secret. Veteran players like Smith, linebacker Jordan Hicks and defensive lineman Harrison Phillips understood the unusual nature of what the team was installing during the offseason, and Smith said: "It sounded kind of wild when I first heard it."


In doing so, Flores has focused on players rather than positions. Metellus is listed as a safety but has played a hybrid linebacker role. He has rushed on 79 dropbacks, the most by a defensive back in the NFL. The next-highest is Smith (61), who has already rushed more often than in any full season of his career. In obvious passing downs, meanwhile, Flores often uses four linebackers across the line of scrimmage without a single traditional defensive lineman."

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