Vikings DC Brian Flores has offense's attention at OTAs

The Minnesota Vikings are only a week into organized team activities, but Brian Flores is already turning some heads at TCO Performance Center.

Something had to change with Minnesota’s defense after last season. Among the worst in the NFL most of the season, the Vikings playoff run was short-lived largely because of a defense that struggled to make stops in key moments.

After the season, Kevin O’Connell replaced Ed Donatell with Flores, one of the most respected defensive minds in the NFL. He’s already made an impact as the Vikings are just starting the process of installing a new defense. Running back Alexander Mattison said multiple times after Tuesday’s practice that the defense is intense, more than they expected for offseason workouts.

"We’re installing an aggressive style of defense, but identity is a big part of it as well. Building an identity is a big part of playing defense in this league. I think they understand my nature of wanting to be aggressive, but not reckless," Flores said Wednesday.

He’s tasked with revamping a unit that no longer includes Dalvin Tomlinson, Eric Kendricks, Patrick Peterson and Cam Dantzler. Harrison Smith and Cam Bynum will anchor the secondary, along with free agent signing Byron Murphy Jr.

Jordan Hicks will be the leader of the linebackers, and Harrison Phillips and Danielle Hunter lead the defensive line. The Vikings have also added to that unit with Dean Lowry, and Marcus Davenport in free agency. One of the biggest questions is in the secondary, where Lewis Cine, Akayleb Evans and Andrew Booth Jr. all had their rookie seasons end early due to injury.

They were all back on the field this week at OTAs, and they all had their moments making plays and confusing the offense. Flores says every day is a competition to see who will eventually be ready to be on the field Week 1.

"I’ve told our guys this, I don’t care where they came from or by what means they got to this team. First round, trade, free agent, undrafted. When you come here, you put in the work, you find a way to learn and apply what you’ve learned and contribute, you’ll have an opportunity. That’s across the board," Flores said. "It’s always a competition, that’s how you get the best version of each player. We don’t care by what means you got here, our guys are going to compete at different positions."

It’s never as simple as replacing one coach. But there’s confidence within the team that the defense will be much-improved under Flores.