The Vikings first depth chart of the 2013 season, released yesterday at Vikings.com, features few surprises and is pretty much what most expected.
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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.
Cornerbacks Marcus Sherels (25) and A.J. Jefferson (24) were both retained by the Vikings on Monday.
Sherels was an exclusive rights free agent and received a tender in the amount of $555,000. While he was exposed at times in the secondary during 2012, when injuries forced him into action, the Percy Harvin trade makes him a candidate to be the primary return man in 2013. The Vikings may end up adding a high quality return man that takes the job away from him, but right now that is his best chance of being on the opening day roster.
Jefferson also had his struggles in 2012, but he wasn’t the worst acquisition in the world and has shown at least some flashes here and there. Jefferson was restricted and received a tender in the amount of $1.33 million, giving the Vikings the right to match any other offer he might receive, but no compensation if another team signs him away.
The Fourth quarter started off with a bang. On a third and six, Christian Ponder threw a nice pass to Kyle Rudolph who got some blocking from Michael Jenkins on a walk-in touchdown. Then, with a 12 points lead, Leslie Frazier called for a two point conversion which was successful when Adrian Peterson pounded it up the gut.
A stupid late hate from Mistral Raymond gave the Lions a fresh set of downs after the defense seemed to be on top of the Lions offensive plans. Then, Mikel Leshoure gashed the defense across midfield which was followed by a decent catch from Calvin Johnson.
On the very next play, Johnson made another leaping catch inside the five and then another stupid penalty struck as Jasper Brinkley delivered a helmet-to-helmet hit on Johnson. That play was followed up by an all-too-easy catch on by Titus Young on a slant in front of A.J. Jefferson.
A pair of positive runs from Peterson was then followed by a tough non-call on a pass to Kyle Rudolph and the Vikings were set to punt, which Stephen Logan returned for 27 yards, and may have gone for a touchdown if not for a Chris Kluwe touchdown.
Chad Greenway led the defense, aided by an important holding call, in holding the Lions offense to a three and out and they were denied the chance to even kick a field goal.
The Vikings drive started out great with a pitch to Adrian Peterson that went for long yardage, but then a delay of game penalty set them back. The very next play, however, Peterson took the ball to the right side and went 61 yards, high stepping for the score. This is Peterson’s fourth 100+ yard rushing game in a row.
The Lions, of course, started out by gunning towards Calvin Johnson. Jamarca Sanford, however, punched the ball out of Johnson’s clutch and Antoine Winfield recovered it.
Then came even more yards from Peterson, on a cutback to the left, that went for a big gain on first down, getting the Vikings into field goal range. More Peterson, a Lions penalty, and then more Peterson set up an easy field goal for Blair Walsh who was able to extend the Vikings lead to 17 points.
The Vikings then went into a bend don’t break defense allowing Stafford to dink and dunk his way down the field, with Erin Henderson coming up with some nice plays on a few occasions. Harrison Smith and Josh Robinson, both rookies, had some good defensive plays on the series as well.
At the two minute warning, the Lions just entered into the red zone on a Calvin Johnson completion, but the Metrodome knew that even the Vikings couldn’t blow this one. On the first play following the two minute warning, Calvin Johnson caught a short pass and was able to push for a touchdown that cut the Vikings lead to 10.
A pooch kick, successfully recovered by Marcus Sherels, pretty much signaled the end of the end for the Lions. A couple of short runs from Peterson drained the Lions of their remaining timeouts and then a quarterback bootleg to the left ended in a personal foul, after Ponder made the rare choice to slide feet first, gave the Vikings a first down and the Lions a nail in their coffin.
Ponder was then able to kneel down and take the victory, which was much needed for the Vikings who now get to head into the bye week with a 6-4 record (2-0 against NFC North teams) and some positive things to build off of.
Percy Harvin has been spotted on crutches this week, following an ugly hit to his ankle last week, but limped slowly through the locker room on Thursday without support. Leslie Frazier says Harvin will play on Sunday if he can, but all signs point towards it being too big of a risk at this point in the season.
The only playmaker to account for more yards in this offense than Harvin is Adrian Peterson, and it has recently been argued that Harvin should be a candidate for the NFL’s MVP award.
If Harvin doesn’t play then the Vikings have to find a way to make up the 75 receiving yards, 10 rushing yards, and 64 return yards he has been gaining on average per game. That is not an easy task and a number of players will have to step up and fill his shoes if the Vikings are going to avoid further regression this Sunday afternoon.
Jarius Wright, WR
Wright has proven to be a bit of a mystery this season as he has been on the 53 man roster all year but has yet to be active on game day, after the Vikings selected him in the fourth round of April’s Draft. There have been a number of theories about why Wright has yet to be on the field, one of which is that he is simply regarded as a Harvin clone in the case of an injury. Wright is a similar player, albeit not likely to be as dominant, as Harvin is and it is logical to expect that he will not only be active in Harvin’s absence, but that we will actually see him get some action.
Toby Gerhart, RB
I already find it ridiculous how little the Vikings are using Gerhart, even when Harvin was healthy, and I would hope that he will be called on to pick it up this week.
Gerhart had a rough outing in week three, but has otherwise been his normal self. Strangely, however, his role seems to be gradually disappearing. In the last four games he has only carried the ball four times, while Harvin has carried it nine times over the same period.
It only seems logical that Gerhart will get some of the carries that would normally go Harvin’s way, and he should arguably get even more than that if the Vikings truly want to embrace their offensive strengths and run the ball with more frequency.
Marcus Sherels, CB
It seems likely that, even if Harvin is active, Marcus Sherels will be the Vikings primary kick returner against the Lions. The Lions got torched by both Harvin and Sherels in the return game earlier this year, but Leslie Frazier seems to think the Lions won’t be so easily fooled on special teams this time around.
Sherels has only returned two kicks this year, averaging 23.5 yards, and doesn’t seem to have the same explosiveness as Harvin does. Still, he will need to be ready to take advantage if the Lions decide to revert to early-season form and provide a big chance for a game-changing return at the Metrodome.
Adam Warwas, Hack Blogger
Somebody has to blow up at the coaching staff, like Harvin did last week, if Bill Musgrave calls three horrible red zone plays in a row that are short of the goalline and result in a field goal.
I nominate me.