The Vikings' defense has not received enough credit for the work it has done this season because the sack totals are down and because the offense has struggled to match its 2009 form. But there have been some great individual performances turned in on "D" this season, most notably by SLB Chad Greenway, who is having a Pro Bowl-caliber start to his year.
Greenway has steadily improved each season since tearing his ACL as a rookie, but he has not played at such a consistently high level in any other year. He says the combination of getting healthier and wiser as a player has allowed him to make more big plays, especially behind the line of scrimmage on run plays.
"I think more recognition," he told PFW when asked to what he'd attribute his success. "We don't do a lot of run blitzing. For the most part, the tackles for loss have been a bit of anticipating what is going to happen, and obviously with our front being so active, it allows us 'backers to come free."
Greenway plays in the Derrick Brooks spot in the Vikings' 4-3 "over" front, which keeps him shielded in front by the team's three-technique, DT Kevin Williams. This keeps Greenway off the line, as opposed to an "under" scheme, in which he'd be playing in the face of a tight end. The Vikings plays a lot of zone coverage, and he has the free space to anticipate and make big plays.
"It doesn't give you the ability to make every play, but you certainly are able to come in clean on a lot of balls, especially if you get the inside run game," Greenway said. "It's about the personnel you have, and we have Kevin Williams, which makes it a lot easier for me."
As for the lack of sacks, Greenway said the team has made up for it with a fair number of pressures. And he knows that eventually this group will make the requisite plays.
"Our defensive line, it's sort of weird that people are questioning the way they have played, but they are giving great effort. They are getting pass rushes," he said. "It's more about what teams are doing to us. They are getting the ball out of the quarterbacks' hands faster, chipping with the tight ends and running backs, and trying to slow our guys down. It's more about the whole defense working together, and we're obviously going to have to improve if we're going to get better as a team."