A Look at What Brian Flores Has Done with Past Defensive Rosters


5 Takeaways Following Brian Flores' Opening Press Conference
Dec 19, 2021; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores runs off the field after winning the game against the New York Jets at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

As the 2023 NFL season approaches, we are getting down to the nitty-gritty where teams will have to cut their rosters down from 90 players all the way to 53 by Tuesday, August 29th.

The defensive depth chart for the Minnesota Vikings is one that could go in a number of different directions over the next few days. With the final preseason game approaching, today we are going to take a look at what Brian Flores has done with defensive rosters in his head coaching stint with the Miami Dolphins.

The hope is this exercise will provide a bit of clarity as to how Flores’ defense will shape up in the next week. Before that, though, we must recognize two caveats:

  1. No two rosters are built the same. The differences in talent across the board could impact what the 2023 Vikings look like compared to the 2019 Dolphins.
  2. Flores is not the head coach of this Vikings team. This duty, obviously, belongs to Kevin O’Connell. Because of that, O’Connell’s input could absolutely usurp the defensive coordinator’s.

Regardless, there are certain trends from Flores’ past that likely will impact how the 2023 Vikings look on the defensive side of the ball. Without further ado, let’s take a look at these trends.

2019 Dolphins

Brian Flores
Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores in Miami Gardens, September 15, 2019. © Allen Eyestone via Imagn Content Services, LLC.

In Flores’ first season with the Dolphins, Miami didn’t field a very good defense, ranking at the very bottom in scoring. However, even in this season we begin to see some trends that last throughout his head coaching tenure. This is how the defensive roster looked in Miami during 2019:

  • 5 defensive linemen
  • 5 outside linebackers
  • 4 off-ball linebackers
  • 6 cornerbacks
  • 5 safeties

Right away, we get the sense that Flores likes having plenty of defensive backs around with 11 players between cornerback and safety.

2020 Dolphins

Dec 19, 2021; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores reacts while walking on the field before the game against the New York Jets at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

In 2020, the Dolphins took massive steps forwards as a defense with Flores. They still gave up a decent number of yards, ranking 20th in the league, but they allowed the sixth-fewest points in Flores’ second season. This helped them to a 10-6 record, but they missed out on the playoffs. This is how the roster appeared heading into Week 1:

  • 6 defensive linemen
  • 4 outside linebackers
  • 4 off-ball linebackers
  • 5 cornerbacks
  • 5 safeties

Once again, Miami cracks double digits for their defensive backs group, and this time around, they swapped out a linebacker for an extra defensive lineman.

2021 Dolphins

Oct 24, 2021; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores looks on from the field during the game against the Atlanta Falcons at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

The Dolphins took a little step back in Flores’ final season as head coach, going just 9-8. While their defense ranked middle of the pack in many metrics, they weren’t helped by an offense that averaged just 20 points per game. This is what the headcount on defense looked like heading into Week 1:

  • 6 defensive linemen
  • 5 outside linebackers
  • 2 off-ball linebackers
  • 8 cornerbacks
  • 5 safeties

In Flores’ final season, we see an exorbitant amount of defensive backs heading into the regular season and an increasingly dwindling number of linebackers.

Final Takeaways

Offseason Stuff
Jan 9, 2022; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores watches from the sideline during the second quarter of the game against the New England Patriots at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

So, what are the big takeaways from this exercise? First and foremost, we should probably expect the Vikings to keep a large number of defensive backs this season.

This begins at the safety position. In each year with the Dolphins, Flores kept exactly five safeties on his team. As a result, it seems like a safe assumption that all five of Harrison Smith, Cam Bynum, Josh Metellus, Lewis Cine, and Jay Ward will find a way onto the 53-man roster.

Additionally, while the 2020 Dolphins had only five cornerbacks, they had six or more in both 2019 and 2021. If the Vikings kept six again this year, my guess is they would give spots to Byron Murphy, Akayleb Evans, Mekhi Blackmon, Andrew Booth, Joejuan Williams, and special teams ace NaJee Thompson.

This brings us to the linebacker spot. Flores has been very willing to keep the group thin, especially at the off-ball spot. If he wants to keep double-digit defensive backs again, this could be the spot which sees some extra cuts. Jordan Hicks and Brian Asamoah are obviously safe, and Ivan Pace has been praised by Kevin O’Connell multiple times. However, behind these three, we could see cuts of players like Troy Dye and Troy Reeder.

Overall, the big takeaway from this exercise is the fact that Flores tends to keep as many DBs on his roster as he can. Unless O’Connell is insistent on this not happening again, we may need to be prepared for it to happen again with the 2023 Vikings.

Josh Frey is a Class of 2020 graduate of The College of Idaho and managing editor of PurplePTSD.com. When he’s not writing about the NFL, Josh enjoys running, gaming, or rooting for the Milwaukee Brewers and Bucks. Check out his Twitter account: @Freyed_Chicken.





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