LIVE › 6-7 a.m. The Sporting Life
NEXT › 7:05 a.m. Minnesota Home Talk
8:05 a.m. Cover Your Assets
9:05 a.m. Tee Time
10:05 a.m. Saturday SportsTalk
12:05 p.m. Money Talk with Josh Arnold
1:05 p.m. This Week in High School Sports
Updated: November 21st, 2013 5:38pm
Wetmore: No stretch to expect Vikings' defense to be average next year

Wetmore: No stretch to expect Vikings' defense to be average next year

by Derek Wetmore
1500ESPN.com
Email | Twitter
SportsWire Daily

Get the 1500 ESPN SportsWire delivered to your inbox daily, and keep up with all the news in Twin Cities Sports

Signup!

Change happens quickly in the NFL. From year-to-year, fortune can turn on its head. Look no further than the Vikings, who are 2-8 after making the playoffs a season ago. The Falcons and Texans also made the playoffs a season ago and also are 2-8. Washington (3-7) found itself in the playoffs last season, as well. Good to very bad in one offseason.

But wretched play doesn't have to linger in this quick-turnaround league.

Reasons for the Vikings' poor record are manifold, but two quick and easy assessments: the quarterback play is dreadful and the defense is horrid.

This post will focus on the defense and specifically, the ability to improve.

Minnesota's defense currently allows 391.7 yards per game, third-most in the NFL. They've dealt with injuries but that's the picture as it stands now. Recent history suggests that doesn't have to continue next year.

Since 2009, the bottom-five NFL defenses, based on yards allowed per game, collectively become average the following season. Some experience turnarounds into elite defenses (Houston from 2010 to 2011, New Orleans from 2012 to 2013).

Yes, I could have used more context-neutral stats from websites like Pro Football Focus and Football Outsiders, but part of the point here is that context changes from year-to-year, too. Perhaps these teams play an easier slate of offenses, which can lead to improved numbers. Other factors that may change: head coaches are replaced; defensive coordinators are promoted or fired; player personnel shuffles; injuries; and so forth.

Here are the worst NFL defenses, based on yards allowed per game, from each of the past five seasons and their improvement to the following year:

Team

Yds/game 2009

NFL Rank

Yds/game 2010

NFL Rank

Improvement

Detroit

392.1

32

343.6

21

11

Cleveland

389.3

31

350.1

22

9

Kansas City

388.2

30

330.2

14

16

St. Louis

372.8

29

336.8

19

10

Tennessee

365.6

28

367.7

26

2

Tampa Bay

365.6

28

332.7

17

11

AVERAGE

378.9

 

343.5

19.8

9.8

Bad defenses from 2009 imrpoved almost 10 spots in yards per game allowed.

Team

Yds/game 2010

NFL Rank

Yds/game 2011

NFL Rank

Improvement

Denver

390.8

32

357.8

20

12

Washington 

389.3

31

339.8

13

18

Houston

376.9

30

285.7

2

28

Arizona

373.6

29

355.1

18

11

Jacksonville

371.8

28

313.0

6

22

AVERAGES

380.5

 

330.3

11.8

18.2

Buoyed by the Texans and Jaguars stunning improvements, the bottom-five from 2010 improved an average of 18 slots. Of those five teams, the worst follow-up year was still 20th-best in the NFL in yards per game allowed. 

Team

Yds/game 2011

NFL Rank

Yds/game 2012

NFL Rank

Improvement

Green Bay

411.6

32

336.8

11

21

New England

411.1

31

373.3

25

6

Tampa Bay

394.4

30

379.9

29

1

Oakland

387.6

29

354.5

18

11

Carolina

377.6

28

333.1

10

18

AVERAGES

396.5

 

355.5

18.6

11.4

The Bucs imrpoved just one spot, and the Patriots moved up just six places, but the bottom-five still imrpoved an average of 11 spots.

Team

Yds/game 2012

NFL Rank

Yds/game 2013*

NFL Rank*

Improvement

New Orleans

440.1

32

305.4

4

28

New York Giants

383.4

31

336.1

11

20

Jacksonville

380.5

30

391.6

29

1

Tampa Bay

379.9

29

341.7

15

14

Washington

377.7

28

389.9

28

0

AVERAGES

392.3

 

352.9

17.4

12.6

*Through week 11

Washington hasn't gotten any better, and the Jaguars' defense still stinks. But the Saints have made a remarkable turnaround this year and the Giants also are significantly improved.

I'm not here to suggest this current Vikings defense has shown glimpses of being middle-of-the-pack, or that Alan Williams will iron out the problems and make strides with the current personnel. In all likelihood, changes will occur this offseason that will directly affect next season. And if recent history is a good indicator, the Vikings can be expected to be a mediocre defense next season. To be sure, mediocrity is a vast improvement over the defensive product on the field this season.

Derek Wetmore is the senior editor for 1500ESPN.com. His previous stops include MLB.com and the Minnesota Daily.
Email Derek | @DerekWetmore
8923