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Patrick Peterson: Minnesota Vikings defense will be ‘night and day’ better without Mike Zimmer in 2022

Andrew Buller-Russ

Last offseason when the Minnesota Vikings were in desperate need of improving the offensive line in addition to the defensive backfield, they weren’t expecting to spend much, thanks to limited cap space. Out of nowhere, former Arizona Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson actually reached out the Vikings’ organization citing a desire to play in Minnesota.

Specifically, it seemed Peterson wanted to play for Mike Zimmer after touting a few of his previous protege’s who perhaps extended the back nine of their career in their late ages, such as Terence Newman, who played 16 games at the age of 39.

Peterson signed a one-year contract for $8 million, giving him the option to test unrestricted free agency this past March. After an up-and-down season that saw Peterson intercept just one pass, along with the firing of Zimmer, it was truly up in the air whether the future Hall of Fame cornerback would return for another year.

Despite what felt like forever, Peterson announced his return to the North Star State on his ‘All Things Covered’ podcast with former NFL DB Bryant McFadden. With Peterson under contract for another season, this time at half the rate — $4 million in 2022, the eight-time Pro Bowl corner doesn’t sound down on his team’s prospects heading into the year. In fact, he sounds quite excited.

Related: Minnesota Vikings training camp 2022: Schedule, tickets, location, and everything to know

Patrick Peterson looking forward to Ed Donatell’s 3-4 scheme

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The Vikings made massive changes on defense over the offseason. If a fan only tunes in for gameday, they’re going to be shocked and confused by the defensive scheme, lining up three defensive linemen on the line of scrimmage instead of the typical Vikings quartet. But this is seasoned NFL mind and new Vikings defensive coordinator Ed Donatell’s baby now. Mike Zimmer’s 4-3 scheme which also commonly featured two linebackers on the line in a ‘mid-blitz’ formation on third downs is gone.

But that’s OK because there are several ways to play football. That’s half the fun.

Not only has the scheme been overhauled, but much of the players have also been changed out too. Which, in this case, should be considered a blessing after allowing more points than they scored last season.

While the roster moves will take time to see their payoff, Peterson is clearly a big fan of the scheme changes under Donatell, even if that means fewer blitzes than Zimmer preferred.

“I think the defense is gonna be a night and day difference, in my opinion. Having the opportunity to just line up and play football. There aren’t many checks, aren’t many audibles. We’re forcing teams to beat us. We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel, trying to come up with crazy blitzes, these crazy zones. Just lineup and play football.”

Patrick Peterson on his All Things Covered podcast

It sounds like even the youngsters should have an easier time adapting to the scheme, which will be great news with first-round safety Lewis Cine joining the back end and second-round corner Andrew Booth Jr. jumping in as well. Being able to essentially move quicker without having to second-guess and think as often should lead to more playmaking opportunities for the inexperienced newcomers.

Just the Vikings using a 3-4 front alone will provide some confusion, as it’s never easy to decipher just which of those front seven are blitzing, and who’s dropping into coverage before the snap. That extra second or two could help in coverage too.

While he’s yet to be a part of Donatell’s defense in preseason or training camp, so far, so good, according to Peterson. We’ll see how it translates to the field this fall.

Related: Overpaid or underrated: 2022 outlook for Vikings QB Kirk Cousins