June 25, 2024

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The Minnesota Vikings are poised for significant defensive improvements in 2024, yet they still face uncertainties at cornerback that could potentially be addressed by acquiring Stephon Gilmore.

Head coach Kevin O’Connell, as reported by The Athletic’s Alec Lewis, revealed that defensive coordinator Brian Flores aims to increase the utilization of man coverage this season. Flores’ previous Miami Dolphins teams led the league in man coverage frequency, employing it on 50.5% of snaps, while the Vikings’ unit last season only utilized it on 19.5% of snaps, primarily due to cornerback limitations.

Brian Flores, Minnesota Vikings

Although the Vikings showed interest in acquiring L’Jarius Sneed from the Kansas City Chiefs, they opted to sign Shaquill Griffin to a one-year deal worth up to $6 million. However, Griffin’s midseason release by the Houston Texans last year suggests he’s more of a competition for the starting outside cornerback role alongside Akayleb Evans, Andrew Booth Jr., and Mekhi Blackmon, with Byron Murphy Jr. transitioning to the slot.

Stephon Gilmore, a veteran cornerback with numerous accolades, showcased his prowess last season, solidifying his status as one of the league’s top cornerbacks even at 33 years old. Pro Football Focus projected Gilmore to command a contract worth $10 million annually, aligning with the deal he signed with the Indianapolis Colts in 2022 before being traded to the Dallas Cowboys at the 2023 trade deadline.

Gilmore’s success can be attributed to his refined coverage techniques and football intelligence, which he credits in part to his time under Flores during their tenure with the New England Patriots. Despite Flores’ subsequent departure and the controversies surrounding it, Gilmore remains supportive of his former coach.

In summary, the Vikings are seeking to address cornerback concerns, and acquiring Gilmore could provide a significant boost to their defense, especially in implementing more man coverage schemes under Flores’ direction.

In a post on X (formerly Twitter), Gilmore expressed admiration for Brian Flores, labeling him as a remarkable coach.

Gilmore’s performance on the field has evolved with time. Despite ranking sixth among active players with 31 regular-season interceptions since 2012, his coverage strategy has shifted over the years. Rather than solely relying on press coverage, Gilmore has excelled in trailing receivers’ routes, anticipating their movements, and preventing them from shaking him off with physicality.

Stephon Gilmore and Brian Flores

According to analysis from PFF’s John Owning, Gilmore often opts for a softer approach at the line of scrimmage, allowing him to better process the receiver’s movements and anticipate their routes. He effectively employs physicality to match the receiver’s pace and employs hand-fighting techniques to disrupt their attempts to create separation. Despite his advancing age, Gilmore’s football acumen enables him to maintain a high level of success in both zone and man coverage schemes.

During the last season, Gilmore led the league in man coverage snaps with 266 and earned the 14th spot in PFF’s man coverage grade.

 

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