Anthony Barr and Mike Zimmer have been together since nearly Day 1 of the head coach’s era in Minnesota.
During that time the Vikings have gone from having the worst defense in the NFL to consistently running out one of the top defenses. But Barr told Good Morning Football on NFL Network this week that Zimmer hasn’t taken the same approach to his players during the entirety of his tenure. The Pro Bowl linebacker said Zimmer has become much more adept at listening to his group of veteran players.
“I think he’s really adapted since I’ve been here,” Barr said. “What I mean by that is, when I first got here he implemented his style and his way and there was no room for discussion or feedback and as time has gone on and we’ve gained his trust. We communicate more often than not about things we’re seeing, things we think will work, things we think don’t work. He really takes into account what our feedback is. That’s appreciated as a player, you want to be heard, you want to be understood and having a coach that listens is very important.”
Following a crushing blow to the defense in Week 4 of 2018 against the Los Angeles Rams in which the Vikings gave up 556 yards and 38 points, Zimmer made alterations to the defense that turned the remainder of the season around. Over the final 12 weeks of the season, they allowed 30 points just once — and that game included a pick-six by the New Orleans Saints.
“Every year we’ve had a down year we’ve bounced back, the following year has been a big season,” Barr said. “We had a tough year in ’16 and in ’17 we were one game away from the Super Bowl so I don’t think there’s any reason to worry or be nervous, we’re going to take care of our side, we’re working really hard to perfect our craft and to become a team, to build team chemistry, that’s what OTAs are for.”
Over Zimmer’s last four seasons the Vikings have ranked fifth, sixth, first and ninth in points allowed. With Barr back in the mix and no significant losses outside of Sheldon Richardson, the expectations will be for the Vikings to put together a similarly strong season on the defensive side.
On offense, however, they will need to take a big jump in order to find themselves in the mix with the league’s best. Last year the Vikings were 19th in points and 20th in yards. Barr said he has already seen a jump on offense at OTAs with the hiring of Kevin Stefanski as offensive coordinator and Gary Kubiak as assistant head coach.
“I’ll tell you what I’ve seen these last few days, offensively they are vastly improved with the type of scheme that they’re running,” Barr said. “I think with the new pieces they have on the O-line and the new guys they have upstairs, the masterminds they have on the offensive side are going to pay dividends.”