Losing Daronte Jones is a Big Deal for the Minnesota Vikings
Some leave for greater opportunity, some for lack of youth and health, some for complete failure. For the Minnesota Vikings’ defensive backs coach Daronte Jones, it was the former. His success led to his opportunity to become LSU’s new defensive coordinator.
Upon initial glance, losing Jones may appear relatively inconsequential. The defense still maintains a lot of continuity, and Mike Zimmer is supposed to be The Corner Whisperer. Why does it matter? Well, there are a lot of reasons.
Let’s begin with the obvious: Minnesota’s young secondary demonstrated a considerable amount of growth throughout the season. Cameron Dantzler, whom PFF recently identified for a second-year breakout, made massive improvements throughout the season. His inability to track the ball on that crucial fourth down in Seattle was costly (around the 1:25 mark):
Post-bye, Dantzler was a new corner. PFF actually grades Dantzler as their 24th best corner on the season (out of 121). In other words, Dantzler is already a tier-1 player at his position.
It isn’t just Dantzler, though. Jeff Gladney showed improvement. He was forced into taking on tons of responsibility, playing both in the slot and along the outside. Harrison Hand certainly had several nice moments, and Kris Boyd showed some promise before his injury.
Ah, the injuries. In case you didn’t hear, Minnesota dealt with a few this season. The two starting corners – Mike Hughes and Holton Hill – were lost after only a few weeks, which merely foreshadowed the cascade of injuries that would arrive thereafter. PFF says that Minnesota played nine corners this season, but that list doesn’t even include Hill. Jones navigated all of this with aplomb.
Let’s also consider how Mike Zimmer talks about Jones. In his year end press conference, Zimmer said that “Daronte Jones is a terrific coach.” Earlier in the year, Zimmer identified Jones as someone who would eventually be a head coach. When LSU made their hire, Zimmer’s prophesy took a step toward being fulfilled.
One final thought: Minnesota has a lot of turnover on their coaching staff this offseason. Marwan Maalouf leaves because of failure, Gary Kubiak (presumably) because of age and health, and Jones because of success. The end result is a coaching staff that needs some serious work. Fans should expect Zimmer to make some moves here relatively soon.
For the Minnesota Vikings, losing Daronte Jones is bittersweet. He did excellent work. Hopefully we’ll see Jones back in the NFL soon, perhaps as a head coach.