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Minnesota Vikings 2023 Season Preview: Will the Defense Improve?

Minnesota Vikings Alexander Mattison
Jan 8, 2023; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Alexander Mattison (2) walks off the field after the game against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Bartel-USA TODAY Sports

As teams head to training camp and the NFL season approaches, The 33rd Team asks its experts to preview every team's outlook for the 2023 season. In this installment, Greg Jennings takes a deep dive into the Minnesota Vikings.

>> READ: Vikings Fantasy Football Preview

Vikings Team Preview

What To Know: Offense

Will Alexander Mattison be the running back that Dalvin Cook was for the Vikings? We know that, in spurts, Mattison came in and showed flashes of being very good for this team.

Kirk Cousins has weapons. The Vikings added WR Jordan Addison to the equation, and they have K.J. Osborn, T.J. Hockenson and, in my opinion, the best receiver in all of football: Justin Jefferson. We know they can throw the ball, but can they run the ball?

What will this offense look like with Mattison taking over for Cook? He's so hungry and ready for this opportunity. I thought he should've gotten more time last year.

What To Know: Defense

When you look at this team and its inability to stop teams defensively last year, it cost them a playoff win. Their struggles on defense potentially cost them an opportunity to go deep into the playoffs.

So you bring in a guy like defensive coordinator Brian Flores, and you have Danielle Hunter, who can absolutely get after the quarterback. Does Minnesota need to shore up things in the secondary? Of course.

There are a lot of things the Vikings can get better at, but that starts with their defensive coordinator. They hit a home run with Flores. I'm excited to see what he provides from a schematic standpoint and with the different looks for getting after the quarterback he provides his team.

Biggest Off-Field Storyline

Most of you would think it has to be Cook, but truly it is not. It's Cousin's stylist, style and wardrobe. We found this out in the Netflix series "Quarterback."

Julie Cousins, we're here to support you. We're going to try to find someone to alleviate you from this role, although you've done your part. We're going to find someone who can actually give your husband — our new favorite quarterback — a better wardrobe and stylist.

Because, Kirk, we can't have you looking the way you look. No disrespect, Julie, you've done your part. You've been great and helpful, but we can do a little bit better.

Breakout Player Prediction

With Hockenson, who the Vikings acquired last year, being an option alongside Jefferson, who we know is going to garner a ton of attention, and Osborn, who is a valuable No. 2 option, on top of the potential emergence of first-round draft pick Addison, there's going to be a lot of attention on the guys outside.

There's one person in the middle who Cousins loves: Hockenson. We saw that when he first got to Minnesota, immediately making his presence felt by being a contributor offensively, catching balls, scoring touchdowns, and moving the chains. He gave the Vikings a different element to their offense. Hockenson will have more than 1,000 yards easily and be one of the top tight ends in the game.

Move Vikings Should Make

When we look at the secondary and their inability to stop the pass, any moves Minnesota makes should primarily be along its defense.

The Vikings have Harrison Smith, a veteran presence who can get guys lined up. At the cornerback position, they got Byron Murphy Jr., who they hope can step in and make an impact. They've got a lot of young talent who can possibly take the next step, but will they take the next step?

They're going to continue looking to improve that secondary so that it gets younger and becomes more effective than it had last year.

2023 Season Expectations

This is a playoff-contending team. They are going to make the postseason. It is a matter of what the Vikings look like once they get into the postseason. How well is Cousins playing, and defensively, how much have they improved? We saw them struggle to stop the New York Giants in the postseason.

Will that be the Achilles heel going into this 2023 season? When you look at the NFC North, this is one of the teams still along the top side of it. I'm not sure they win it because I like the Detroit Lions, but the Vikings should make the playoffs. They have a chance to contend and possibly win the NFC.

Other Previews

NFC East: DAL | NYG  | PHI | WAS

NFC North: GB | CHI | DET

AFC East: BUF | MIA | NE  | NYJ

AFC North: PIT | CLE | BAL | CIN

AFC West: KC | LAC | LV | DEN

NFC West: SF | SEA | LAR | ARI

NFC South: TB | CAR | NO | ATL 

AFC South: JAX | TEN | HOU | IND  

Greg Jennings is a former NFL wide receiver who played for the Packers, Vikings and Dolphins. A two-time Pro Bowl player, Jennings was a member of the Packers’ Super Bowl XLV championship team and was inducted into the club’s Hall of Fame. Follow him on Twitter @GregJennings.