Zimmer upset with camp D: ‘They think they’re pretty good’

Published 8:28 am Friday, August 2, 2019

EAGAN — With six players who have been to the Pro Bowl and only one new starter in a well-regarded scheme that has remained largely unchanged entering a sixth season under coach Mike Zimmer, the Minnesota Vikings’ defense ought to have a lot less work to do in training camp than most units around the league.

Try telling that to the boss.

“We need to play a lot better,” Zimmer said Thursday, delivering an unprompted criticism in a detour from a reporter’s question about the progress of safety Anthony Harris. “The offense has got a lot of grit and fight, and I haven’t seen that much out of the defense yet. That’s my major concern at this point.”

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Ever the old-school, no-nonsense coach, Zimmer was clearly attempting to send a message through the media to motivate a group that is as proud, experienced as accomplished as any in the NFL. One week into full-team workouts, with the Sept. 8 opener still more than five weeks away, is hardly time to worry. Or is it?

“As I’ve told a few of them, they’ve been together for quite a while now, and they think they’re pretty good, so maybe we just go out and practice and there’s not the intensity level or whatever we need to do,” Zimmer said. “They’re not making mistakes, because they’ve been in the same defense for six years now, so it’s a little bit of, maybe, complacency? Hey, we’re in the top five in defense every year, blah blah blah.”

The Vikings, for accuracy, ranked sixth, first and ninth in points allowed over the 2016-18 seasons. In yards allowed, they were third, first and fourth, respectively. With only defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson lost from last year’s lineup, and Shamar Stephen expected to take over that spot, the Vikings have the same ingredients in place for another dominant defensive performance.