Mike Zimmer’s ability to develop players may be crucial for defense

It’s impossible to understate what a disappointment 2023 first round pick Mazi Smith was in 2023. A player taken in round one is expected to at least show lots of promise and upside if not have immediate impact. Unfortunately, Mazi didn’t offer either. In Mazi‘s defense, it would be crazy to give up on a first round pick after one year, especially with a new DC known for developing players.

Maybe the hiring of Mike Zimmer may signal hope for a guy like Mazi Smith and perhaps some other defensive players who have major room for improvement or to simply develop. Zimmer is known as a guy who has the ability to maximize a player’s talent – IF – if the player buys into the “tough love” Zim brings in order to get the best out of a player.

Here are a list of Vikings players who had perhaps underachieved a bit before Mike Zimmer had a big hand in developing them to better performance:

  • DE Everson Griffen – (a guy who had a brief stint here at the end of his career) Griffen underachieved in Minn for 3 years until Zim developed him into a second team All Pro in 2017 and a couple of pro bowls as well. He wasn’t a superstar, but Zim got the most out of his talent at Minn.
  • S Harrison Smith– a former first rounder in 2012, Smith developed into a first team All Pro in 2017 and second team All Pro in 2018, and a 6 time pro bowler. Smith blossomed under Zimmer after not being an immediate star after being drafted.
  • S Xavier Rhodes– (another guy who had a brief time here in 2022) a first rounder in 2013 who developed into a first team All Pro Safety in 2017 at Minnesota and made 3 pro bowls. Like Harrison Smith, Rhodes took some timeto develop.
  • LB Eric Kendricks- a second round pick of the Vikes in 2015, Kendricks developed into a first team All Pro in 2019. Kendricks is now with the Chargers but he credits Zimmer for making him what he became as a player.

When Mike Zimmer was hired in Minnesota in 2014 as their new head coach, he stated at his opening press conference that he wanted to create a smart, tough, physical, and technically sound football team. That sounds like a lot of the qualities this soft and at times entitled Cowboys players desperately need. Let’s hope so.

If Zim can develop some defensive guys like Mazi Smith, maybe we can see some things we haven’t seen in far too long. We will see.

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