The Minnesota Vikings have elected to sign defensive back Chris Crocker, formerly of the Cincinnati Bengals, to the roster and waive defensive end Rakim Cox. The move doesn’t come as a huge surprise, but may signal that Andrew Sendejo, who just came off of the Physically Unable to Perform list, may not be ready to play int he first preseason game or is progressing slowly.
Sendejo, who had been out all offseason with a back injury, may be less familiar with the system than safety Chris Crocker, who played with Zimmer in Cincinnati and in Atlanta. Crocker, aged 34, has played with Mike Zimmer for 14 years now and served a vital role in the Bengals’ top five defense last year, filling in for an injured Leon Hall at nickel corner.
Though he primarily plays safety, his defensive back experience has given Zimmer a lot of versatility in defensive design, and allowed him to put three safeties on the field at once, something the Vikings have experimented with for a little bit in camp.
Crocker has come up several times in press conferences as the kind of versatile player that gives Zimmer flexibility in defensive design.
Last year, he had two sacks, one hit and five hurries on the quarterback on 26 pass-rushing snaps and grabbed two interceptions, allowing two touchdowns in the process. With Zimmer he has ten career interceptions and has consistently been rated by Pro Football Focus in the past several years as a league-average safety, making him excellent depth or a reasonable starting option.
The Vikings have had injuries to safety Robert Blanton in camp to go along with Andrew Sendejo’s uncertain status, and are left picking between Antone Exum, Jamarca Sanford, Kurt Coleman, Mistral Raymond and Brandan Bishop at safety. Though Sanford has done an acceptable job in the last two years as a starting safety, he may not be a fit for the kind of scheme that Zimmer runs, which emphasizes safeties that have the capability to either play in the box or patrol a deep wide zone with range.
This doesn’t mean that Crocker is a lock to make the roster, but he’ll help teach the system and immediately provide the Vikings with a game-ready player. Over the past three years, he’s started in 28 games, and appeared in 41.
Rakim Cox, an undrafted defensive end from Villanova, started out camp ahead of fellow UDFAs Jake Snyder and Tyler Scott on the depth chart, but had slowly been moving down in favor of the Virginia and Northwestern products. Cox came out of a 3-3-5 defense and needed to add strength in order to make the roster. Despite a reputation for intelligent play and a hard work ethic, he had issues in camp with lane discipline.