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How will Vikings handle losing four defensive starters in offseason?

An enormous amount of turnover has been seen this offseason as it relates to the Minnesota Vikings.

While many will likely point to the most high-profile loss of wide receiver Stefon Diggs, who was traded to the Buffalo Bills, it was a very good Vikings defense that lost four starters.

Thus, the question will linger into the regular season as to whether Minnesota's long-reliable defense will wane in the wake of such change? Then again, perhaps the question should be if the Vikings can actually be better?

Having declined the option of defensive end Everson Griffen, lost cornerback Trae Waynes in free agency and released cornerback Xavier Rhodes and defensive lineman Lindval Joseph, Minnesota is minus four starters from a defensive unit that was second in the NFL points per game allowed (19.3).

Though quarterback Kirk Cousins, running back Dalvin Cook and Diggs largely commanded the headlines, the defense was excellent as the Vikings produced a 10-6 season with a trip to the NFC Divisional Round.

Third in yards per game (321.8) and sacks (260) and tops in opponent third-down percentage (35.2%) and opponent red zone touchdown percentage (47.1), the Vikings defense was quietly outstanding.

Losing Griffen (eight sacks in 2019) could be huge as evidenced by Danielle Hunter's 29.0 sacks over the last two seasons, which is third in that span between just pass-rushing heavyweights as Aaron Donald (33.0) and Chandler Jones (32.0), per NFL Research. With Hunter losing his tag team pass-rushing partner, Ifeadi Odenigbo is likely to be looked upon to step up.

First-round pick Jeff Gladney is likely to also be looked at to take on the starting challenge from the season's onset and with that will come high expectations for improvement. After all, the released Rhodes allowed the highest completion percentage (84.3%) and third-highest passer rating (127.8) among 87 corners with 50-plus targets, per Pro Football Focus.

At Texas Christian University, Gladney allowed a 41.5 completion percentage and 59.5 passer rating across the last two seasons, according to PFF. There's obviously a big jump from college to the NFL, but the 31st pick of the draft has many believing he can jump into a starting role and improve upon a weak spot from a season ago.

Following 2019, the Vikings have ranked in the top 10 in scoring defense for five consecutive years in the Mike Zimmer era, according to NFL Research.

With Hunter, linebacker Eric Kendricks (one of four players in the NFL with 100-plus tackles in four straight seasons, per NFL Research) and safety Harrison Smith (a selection to five straight Pro Bowls, which is the most among NFL defensive backs, via NFL Research) providing a sensational core group, perhaps it's not unlikely for the aforementioned streak to continue, sans four starters from 2019 or not.

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