Same old vikings? Tell that to Za’Darius Smith

The Minnesota Vikings may be 5-1, have a two-and-a-half-game lead on the Green Bay Packers in the NFC North and have won four straight, but fans just can’t help themselves. You see, to be true Skoldier should always have something to complain about, regardless of the situation.

Are the Vikings winning by dominating teams in 60 minutes this season? Of course not.

Does the offense still leave an appreciable amount of meat on the bone? There is no question.

Chandon Sullivan doing his best Mackensie Alexander impersonation from last season by being completely baked as Minnesota’s nickelback? Absolutely.

Before we spend the bye week dwelling on Minnesota’s penchant for blatant ballgames or Minnesota’s erratic offense, let’s take a look at what makes this year’s Vikings team noticeably different from years past. the past

Kwesi Adofo-Mensah acquired Moby Dick as a free agent. Just one year removed from a second-team All-Pro season with the Packers, people were skeptical of outside running back Za’Darius Smith’s potential impact on the Vikings. Smith only played parts of two games last season (including the postseason) due to a back problem. He also recently turned 30, which for fantasy football fans means Smith is officially a wash.

After six weeks, Smith became Minnesota’s most important player. Dynamic edge rushers who can play both inside and outside are a rare breed indeed. They covet defensive coordinators more than any other position. As much as Vikings fans would like to believe it’s the “Same Old Vikings,” Smith’s presence pokes big holes in that line of thinking.

Did we forget that Minnesota has been without an All-Pro caliber outside linebacker since 2019? Yes, Danielle Hunter is healthy and looked like her usual, game-destroying self with six pressures and a sack against the Miami Dolphins in Week 5. But his struggles grew in Ed Donatelli’s scheme, and the production just wasn’t there.

Remember Skoldiers’ favorite excuse of the past two years?

“I wish Danielle Hunter could stay healthy” was more famous to rural Minnesotans than a Kid Rock concert.

With Smith, Vikings fans no longer need to dwell in the past and ponder the ways to this team’s inevitable doom. If you need reasons why Minnesota currently sits outside the top 10 in points allowed, look no further. The former Packer made a significant impact, as evidenced by the bounce, and single-handedly dominated the Dolphins in Week 6.

Smith recorded 11 pressures, four tackles on four defenders, two sacks and two tackles for loss on Sunday.

On the season, Smith is the league leader in pressure on opposing quarterbacks.

Historically speaking, to be taken seriously as a contender in the NFL, you better have a serious dude (or two) in your foursome. Recent examples are the San Francisco 49ers with Nick Bosa and Arik Armstead. Or the Los Angeles Rams with Aaron Donald and Von Miller. The 2020 Super Bowl Champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers had Jason Pierre-Paul, Ndamukong Suh and Shaquil Barrett. With Demarcus Lawrence, Micah Parsons and Randy Gregory, the 2021 Dallas Cowboys fit that description perfectly. How about a 2019 or 2020 Packers with Za’Darius Smith, Preston Smith and Rashan Gary?

Make no mistake about it, Za’Darius Smith that Dude for the Vikings.

After Smith’s blowout against the Dolphins in Week 6, the local media asked him the identity of Minnesota’s outside department.

“BMF….we are some Bad Mother F***ers,” Smith said.

Yes, it should definitely fight Skoldiers. Now the hope is that Minnesota will come out of Week 7 and get familiar with the Vikings’ linebackers before starting Rick Ross’ 2010 hit “BMF.”

Of course, there are areas where the Vikings can improve as they begin their stretch run of the season. But as long as Smith leads Minnesota’s BMF team, they deserve to be taken seriously as a legitimate contender to win the NFC and punch the franchise’s first ticket to the Super Bowl since 1977.

If Smith’s presence up front helps Hunter maintain his high-level play from Week 6, the Vikings could make even the most high-octane offense extremely uncomfortable. Smith and BMF will have a golden opportunity to do so in Week 10 when they travel to Buffalo to face MVP leader Josh Allen and the Bills.

But for now, sit back and enjoy the goodbye. And don’t apologize for allowing yourself to believe that this Vikings team is a completely different ball club with Za’Darius Smith leading Minnesota’s drastically improved defense.

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