Vikings' Tom Johnson Says Minnesota Has 'The Best Defense in the NFL'

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistAugust 8, 2017

Minnesota Vikings defensive tackle Tom Johnson during the NFL football team drills Tuesday, June 13, 2017, in Eden Prairie, Minn. (AP Photo/Andy Clayton-King)
Andy Clayton-King/Associated Press

The Minnesota Vikings defense showed solid improvement from 2015 to 2016, and Vikings defensive tackle Tom Johnson believes he and his teammates can hang with any other defense in the league. 

"We've got the best defense in the NFL," Johnson said Monday, per Pro Football Talk's Michael David Smith.

The numbers don't necessarily back up Johnson's assertion. Minnesota ranked third in yards allowed (314.9 yards per game) but a less impressive eighth in defensive efficiency, per Football Outsiders. The Vikings were also sixth in points allowed (19.2 per game).

The Vikings defense could easily climb to the top of the leaderboard in all three categories by the end of 2017. Linebackers Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks are entering their prime playing years, while defensive end Danielle Hunter should improve upon his 12.5 sacks from a year ago.

As Pro Football Focus noted, Hunter was the team leader in sacks despite playing fewer snaps than Brian Robison and Everson Griffen:

The Vikings will almost certainly need an elite defense if they're going to return to the playoffs after missing out in 2016.

Adrian Peterson is gone and the combination of Latavius Murray and Dalvin Cook are filling the void in Minnesota's backfield. Murray averaged 4.0 yards per carry in each of the last two years, and Cook battled shoulder and hamstring injuries while at Florida State.

The passing game, meanwhile, is unlikely to take a major step forward with Sam Bradford at the helm. Bradford led the NFL in completion rate (71.6 percent), but his 7.02 yards per attempt were 19th among qualified quarterbacks.

In the event Minnesota's defense regresses in 2017, it could be a long year in Minneapolis.

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