Thursday, March 5, 2015
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chris cook

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The Vikings are set to host Carolina this afternoon and I want to remind everyone interested to join us for a Live Chat during the action.

The inactives for today include recently acquired quarterback Josh Freeman, as Matt Cassel will remain the starter, with Christian Ponder playing the role of backup.

The other inactives today are:  Safety Mistral Raymond, Linebacker Gerald Hodges, Linebacker Audie Cole, Defensive Tackle Chase Baker, Defensive End Justin Trattou, and Guard Jeff Baca.

The Vikings are much healthier coming out of the bye and Chris Cook will be welcomed back into this struggling secondary as they prepare to face Cam Newton.

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Headed into the 2013 NFL Draft, it was obvious the Vikings needed to address their secondary. The loss of veteran cornerback and expert tackler Antoine Winfield left a gaping hole at the position and, in the eyes of many, skyrocketed the position into the primary need of the offseason. The most veteran player at the position now is Chris Cook who himself is quite inexperienced and only has started in 18 games since he was drafted in the second round of the 2010 draft.

The Vikings choose to draft Florida State cornerback Xavier Rhodes in the first round of this year’s draft. Xavier Rhodes is a big frame corner who excels at press coverage. In the NFC North where we have to deal with the likes of Calvin Johnson and Brandon Marshall, Rhodes will be critical to the success of the Vikings secondary.

Josh Robinson will likely attempt to move inside and replace Antoine Winfield in covering the slot. Robinson performed well in his 2012 rookie season despite a few missteps here and there. The speedster out of Central Florida had a combined 55 tackles and two interceptions in his rookie campaign. Not bad when compared to Chris Cook’s line of  35 combined tackles and zero interceptions. (Although, Cook only played in 10 games last season to Robinson’s full 16.)

The Vikings were able to land A.J. Jefferson from the Arizona Cardinals before the 2012 season for close to nothing and it’s safe to say that they got a decent return on their investment. Jefferson, not a shut down corner by any means, was able to hold his own for the most part and is a young player who should continue to get better.

Jacob Lacey was an offseason acquisition who has previously played with the Detroit Lions and Indianapolis Colts. While he hasn’t had a stand out career, Lacey does have more experience than some of the other corners currently on the roster.

Marcus Sherels and Brandon Burton round out the bottom of the depth chart. Burton and Sherels, both in their third season, will likely not see a whole lot of action but will fill in when  needed.

[NOTE FROM ADAM:  Please welcome reader “Carl K” for joining the ranks of many of you fine readers that have submitted guest posts over the years.  Well done, Carl K, well done!]

Written By Carl K

Minnesota Vikings Defensive Coordinator Alan Williams has a little more swagger heading into his second season thanks to a successful first year and an off-season that landed him a few more playmakers. GM Rick Spielman made a splash by drafting DT Sharrif Floyd and CB Xavier Rhodes in the first round of the NFL draft. The Vikings also drafted linebackers Gerald Hodges and Michael Mauti along with signing free agent linebacker Desmond Bishop.

Williams is eager to see his squad put on the pads and mix it up in training camp, but he was quick to give Xavier Rhodes some praise after a solid OTA mini camp. “He got his hands on some balls and he’s not giving up deep balls. That’s the big thing because a lot of guys like to sit on passes and you see them intercept balls and you say “wow” and then a lot of balls are going over his head. And he’s not giving up either. He’s tough down low and up top.”

Williams is a former defensive backs coach with the Indianapolis Colts and you can tell he is very excited about his two big physical corners Chris Cook and Xavier Rhodes. “Both guys are tall. They are long. They can go get the ball, unbelievable ball skills so to be able to have two guys outside and don’t forget about Josh, don’t forget about the other guys that can really run. They’re physical so you’re not limited to one type of defense. You can play a variety of things and when you can take the outside guys away it makes it easier for me to make the calls and mixing up the coverages.”

Alan Williams has plenty of talent, depth and options to work with when it comes to drawing up defensive schemes heading into the 2013 season. So, with just days before the start of training camp, I can only speculate and conjure up images of how Williams will use his new personnel. Last season the Vikings lined up in a nickel cover 2 zone most of the time. I expect to see more of that again this year against the pass happy NFC North teams . However, with two big corners on the outside that can press and Josh Robinson over the slot, we just might see more man coverage. If the Vikings can have success in man coverage from the base 4-3 or in a nickel, Williams could get creative with some hybrid formations or personnel groupings. Three linebackers, three corners and a single high safety could allow Desmond to do what he does best… play down hill and put some pressure on the QB. Gerald Hodges is former safety with good coverage instinct so I expect to see him get some playing time in passing situations. The Vikings cover 2 defense typically doesn’t showcase a lot of man coverage, blitz packages from the linebackers or hybrid formations, but this year Williams could show the NFC North quarterbacks a new wrinkle.

Chris Cook hasn’t exactly been Mr. Reliable in his first three NFL seasons.  Multiple injuries and multiple off-field troubles have kept him out of action all too often.  These problems are really the only reasons to consider this to possibly be Cook’s last season in Minnesota, because he has otherwise been a very solid contributor on Sundays, and even more is expected of him during his contract year in 2013.

Cook may not be able to control his medical status as the season wears on, but it sounds like he is trying to keep from letting another knucklehead incident off the field keep him from cashing in on a second contract, as he is distracting himself by continuing his studies at the University of Virginia.

“I just felt like it was something that would keep me grounded, just to keep me from doing too much partying — too much of stuff that I didn’t need to be doing,” Cook told 1500 ESPN. “It’s definitely helped me focus, kept me in one place, not traveling all over the place, having something to focus on definitely helped me out.”

Cook is probably wise to stay out of trouble this offseason if he wants his next contract to be with the Vikings, and that sounds like the case, as another incident would surely be enough reason to show him the door despite his talent.

“I’m looking forward to coming back if that’s in the cards, and I definitely would love to stay here,” he said of his future with the team. “It’s a contract year, but I’m not playing for a contract. I’m just playing for a good year and playing for this team.”

The VIkings created a large duo of cornerbacks when they drafted Xavier Rhodes to play across from Cook, and that is a good thing considering the receivers in the NFC North, but Cook joked that the rookie should let him do the heavy listing when the season rolls around.

“Just let me handle them,” is what Cook said he told Rhodes about Calvin Johnson and Brandon Marshall.

He went on to say that the duo will be asked to play more press coverage than we have seen from the Vikings secondary in the recent past.  He also says that the loss of Antoine Winfield will not cause the Vikings defensive backfield to struggle moving forward.

“I definitely know we’re going to play a lot more press coverage, because we have two big guys on the outside now,” Cook said. “Coach (Leslie) Frazier likes those type of guys on the outside. Everybody seems to like bigger guys on the outside now, and it’s because of the big receivers now.”

“We’ve got a lot of young, hungry guys. We put in a lot of extra time and we communicate very well and we spend a lot of time together bonding. … I don’t think we’ll be what people think we’ll be. I think we’ll be probably, most definitely a top secondary this year.”

That’s a pretty bold statement for a guy that has missed more games than he has played, especially with their fearless leader now in Seattle, but it isn’t too inconceivable that the Vikings secondary could be an improved unit this year.  The addition of Rhodes, and the possible improvement of young players like Harrison Smith and Josh Robinson, could indeed be a recipe for success in 2013.

At the very least, the confidence to press opposing receivers should create more opportunities for a very talented defensive line to torment quarterbacks all season long.

We continue to formally introduce you to our newest Vikings with our in-depth series.  If you missed the one on Sharrif Floyd then click here to read all about our new defensive tackle.

Up next is someone we had identified as a possible Vikings target months ago.  Florida State cornerback Xavier Rhodes did indeed end up being the Vikings second selection in 2013.

XAVIER RHODES, CB, FLORIDA STATE

ATTRIBUTES

Height:  6′ 1″

Weight:  210 pounds

Arm Length:  33 3/4″

Hand Size:  9″

COMBINE RESULTS

Rhodes tested very well at the NFL’s Scouting Combine, but he did struggle in the positional skills, which is something you don’t see discussed in the media as much the forty times and bench press numbers.  Despite his big frame he ran the 11th fastest forty yard dash of all the defensive backs at the event.  Both his broad jump and vertical jump tied for the best at in Indy, while his bench press totals were adequately average.

Forty:  4.43 seconds

Bench:  14 reps

Vertical:  40.5″

Broad Jump:  132″

PRO DAY RESULTS

Rhodes did not partake in any timed drills at the Florida State Pro Day, but scouts came away still impressed with the speed and quickness they saw from him at both events.  Still, reviews from his Pro Day were in consensus regarding how the big corner can have trouble with changing direction quickly and how tight he can be in the hips.  A lot of reports preceding the draft indicated that this event confirmed his inability to succeed in zone coverage, which has to be at least a little concerning to Vikings fans.

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