A theme has been present for years with the Minnesota Vikings defense: they could stop the run but couldn’t cover an ant with a piece of paper. After taking a look at the team on the field and by the numbers I believe things are looking up for the secondary.
Things looked difficult with the sure tackling, always injured Antoine Winfield leaving the team. The front office made sure this wouldn’t be a mistake. Cornerback Chris Cook is finally completely healthy and shined in the past few seasons when he was able bodied. The left side is summed up with Josh Robinson as backup.
The most exciting move in the draft for me was how the team grabbed Sharrif Floyd and Xavier Rhodes both in the first round. Rhodes’ size and coverage skills are a perfect counterpart to the big receivers in the division. The team was getting torched by the taller wideouts. Not only his size is impressive: the kid can flat out play. It will be exciting to see the former Seminole tear it up in 2013. A.J. Jefferson backs Rhodes up and has plenty of playing time to show for it with the injuries rattling the secondary the past few seasons.
Free safety Harrison Smith has been a clear cut favorite in the secondary to carry the group in pass defense. He proved last season that he can play in the NFL with three interceptions and two defensive touchdowns in his 2012 debut season. Out of all the new defensive players, Smith is the most electrifying guy out there. He is always around the ball and has the discipline of a Notre Dame player. He can give the team things to build around for years to come. Last season was great for Smith, and the only direction he will be going in the future is up.
Backup safety Robert Blanton was teammates with Smith at Notre Dame, which can prove to be a good combination for the secondary. He is backing up Mistral Raymond who starts the season at strong safety and has promising potential to keep the secondary solid.
Players like Jamarca Sanford and Marcus Sherels are also players that are possible fill in spots. For now Sherels, is still the kick returner they have had for the past couple of years when Percy Harvin was injured. With Harvin now gone, expect Sherels to get a chance to be the regular return guy.
Now is the time for the Vikings defense to make strides in all aspects of the game. Look to see opposing offenses start to be forced to rely on more balanced schemes instead of throwing the ball to wear the secondary out. This opens up the secondaries chance to get involved more with the run game.