The Vikings are expected to get their top cornerback, Antoine Winfield, back onto the field following the bye week after he has missed three games with a neck injury. Winfield recently said he will “without a doubt” be ready to play the Packers after the bye.
Getting Winfield back will be a plus, but it is far from a true fix at the cornerback position.
The Vikings have put forth the draft picks and the money in recent history in an effort to solidify the position. Winfield and Cedric Griffin were both awarded long term contract extensions, but both have been unable to avoid the injury bug for very long.
Draft picks have been spent on Asher Allen, Chris Cook, and Brandon Burton as well.
Cook has been a promising young cornerback that has enough respect within the organization to be tasked with single coverage against the likes of Calvin Johnson. A recent firearm related allegation, combined with a more recent and extra troubling domestic abuse allegation, has left Cook’s status with the team as a big unknown.
“We’ve got a lot of things to talk about,” Leslie Frazier said recently when asked if Cook could be released during the bye week.
That is not exactly a flowery outlook for Cook’s chances of remaining employed by the Vikings. His next court appearance is scheduled November 22nd, and the Vikings can only suspend him without pay for three more weeks before they have to decide whether to activate him or send him packing.
The 24 year old cornerback was expected to make a $450,000 base salary in 2011, while also getting a $1 million roster bonus this year.
Griffin has not played the same after coming back from his second ACL injury in as many years. Asher Allen, while he drew some praise from Frazier on Monday, has been the cause of many “cringe” moments for Vikings fans this season. Brandon Burton and Marcus Sherels are relative unknowns in terms of how they could contribute on defense right now.
Fraizer recently stated that the coaching staff will take advantage of the bye week to “peel back the onion” and consider any possible lineup changes, including the possibility of rookie safety Mistral Raymond working his way into the rotation.
Frazier also didn’t completely reject the idea of replacing Cedric Griffin in the starting lineup with Asher Allen, which would be a surprising shakeup.
Through the first half of the season, the Vikings pass defense ranks 29th in the league, giving up an average of 273.6 yards per game. Cedric Griffin leads the cornerbacks with 42 tackles, Marcus Sherels has the only sack of the group, Griffin and Antoine Winfield have each forced a fumble, and Winfield and Asher Allen are the only corners with an interception so far.
It is tough to say if a shakeup is going to help the Vikings to win games, but with the season nearly 100% lost, it might be a good evaluation opportunity to put these young guys (i.e. Sherels, Allen, and Burton) on the field and challenge them to hold their own or be replaced next offseason while also sending a message to under-performing veterans that they are replaceable.
It is also possible that the team will look to the streets for help. Veteran Leigh Bodden, who has had 12 interceptions over the last three seasons, was waived by the Patriots recently and is now a free agent. He is a guy built for the cover-2 scheme and could at least help the Vikings in the short term, and could be a possible long term prospect as well. The front office would be insane not to at least consider him, at least after getting the details on why the Patriots parted ways with him.
Unfortunately, the Vikings investments into the secondary over the last three years has only provided marginal improvements to the unit, and “peeling back the onion” is just another way of saying the Vikings might be “going back to the drawing board” to come up with a more consistent group of pass defenders.