Camp Battles: The Air Defenders – Cornerbacks

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.

I don’t expect a huge battle at the cornerback position during camp. As a first round pick, it would be a major disappointment if Xavier Rhodes was not starting opposite of Chris Cook. Rhodes, who has been a stand out during offseason practices thus far, is expected to be a starter and contributor from Day 1. As mentioned above, the success of the Vikings defensive backfield this season in a division that loves to pass hinges on Rhodes learning fast and making plays from the start.

Though garnered as the Vikings best cornerback presently, Chris Cook still has a lot to prove this season. His career in Minnesota has been riddled with injuries and off-the-field distractions. When on the field though, Cook has been mediocre in his duties despite never being a big play maker. This year, Cook needs to show that he can be the player the Vikings thought he would be and stay healthy and effective throughout the 2013 campaign.

I think it’s pretty safe to assume that Josh Robinson will be the third cornerback on the Vikings roster. His strong 2012 season will likely award him more playing time than A.J. Jefferson. Robinson is going to be expected to play in the slot – something he has never done before. When asked about his new role on the defense, Robinson said, “I wouldn’t know. I really don’t have any game-time experience with it. I think it’s something I’ll learn eventually. We’ll see.”


Robinson also has big holes to fill in run support as his predecessor at the position last year is often recognized as the greatest tackling cornerback in history. Robinson is likely up for the task, though, as he proved last season he is an exceptional tackler. Nate Burleson’s back is still hurting

The Vikings added ex-Lions cornerback Jacob Lacey during the offseason and Lacey is likely the guy who will push one of last year’s starters off the depth chart. Lacey will be battling with A.J. Jefferson, Marcus Sherels and Brandon Burton for a roster spot. Jefferson is likely to make the team as he has a decent amount of experience under his belt and was a decent contributor in 2012. The competition is likely to come down to Sherels and Burton for the final spot. Sherels should have the upper-hand as he has been a solid contributor on special teams. Though, there is a possibility he is replaced as the primary punt returner in 2013 which could hurt his value. Burton, whose playing time has been steadily on the decline, may likely find himself the odd man out and without a roster spot.

While there aren’t any huge battles at the cornerback position, there still is a lot to be learned about the Vikings made over unit. Stay tuned for the second half of the “air defenders” and the final camp battle preview for the Vikings defense where we will look take a look at the safeties.

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Brett Anderson

Brett Anderson (Founder) is a passionate Viking fan hailing from Sin City, Las Vegas. He can remember, as a child, scraping his knee on the playground and his friends being completely shocked by the purple blood trickling from the wound. When Brett isn't scouring the Internet for some semblance of Vikings news, he enjoys blindly putting money on them to beat whoever their opponent may be, and daydreams about being their next Tight End. Brett graduated from UNLV with a degree in Architecture and specializes in web/graphic design; he hopes to provide this site’s visitors with the best Vikings experience on the net.

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  1. When Cook gets his first INT, the flood gates should open. I like our corners. I think the young guys will have some growing pains… But I like their chances to make big plays and improve over the course of the season. Let’s hope they stay healthy.

  2. Jefferson just has to go, right?

    Wow! Old Josh Robison doesn’t exactly sound confident about covering the slot. Reassuring indeed.

    1. I took it as he sounded confident that he will beat out Rhodes to play on the outside, or he was annoyed that he was already being written off as the loser of their battle.

  3. yo Brett, you neglected to mention who ran the sub 4.4 forty
    Was it Josh Robinson or A.J. Jefferson?

  4. sounds like our D better shut teams down the way our QBs are throwing the ball. i have that sinking feeling in my stomach reading about how these passers are doing, and we’re not even in pads yet

    1. Cal what I red was the receivers looked bad not the qb’s. Running wrong routes, cutting routes offs short or running route long. I read the receivers made the qb’s look bad.

      1. And then there is this from his day 2 notebook-
        “The consistent theme is that Christian Ponder and Matt Cassel overthrew their receivers and a number of their passes were easy interceptions. Some of the interceptions were dropped, but the point remains the same: the decisions and throws were bad.”

        At any rate it seems the passing game needs work…a lot of work. Practice, we’re talking about practice.

  5. Barring injuries I don’t see Sherels or Burton making the final cut. I’m not sure where the praise for Jefferson is coming from? He really got abused many times last year.

    1. I don’t know Johnny, have to agree with Brett on this one. No doubt he did get abused at times but A.J did make some plays.
      Not what you want as a starter, but a capable backup? I think so.

      1. You’re probably right CC, a capable backup but I will sure cringe if one of the starters goes down. I’m more worried about the qb’s than anything right now. I know it’s early but didn’t either of these guys throw a football before training camp?

        1. usually, if we’re going to see an improvement, it’ll show right away, it’ll be something that they bring to camp with them. sadly, it doesn’t appear to be there. now we have to hope through camp and the season for improvement, and consistency, and no sub-100-yard games

          if not, it’s back to the drafting board, and years to wait

          1. I am not ready to sound the alarm yet with the QB’s. That was only the 2nd day of practice and it does take time to build chemistry with the WR’s (especially new ones which we have 2)

      2. Yes, a backup!

        All I’m saying is that he was serviceable considering what he was obtained for.

        1. He also put the ball on the ground a few times also on those punt returns and not to mention was always toasted when he had to play on defense.

  6. Daily Norseman is the first blog site to have full access to Vikings training camp. They have the same access as any reporter. And I would believe DN’s reviews of camp before any reporter.

        1. That would be incredible. I wish I was able to get some sort of special access while I’m there. I’m just going to go in like a boss and see where it gets me… Probably tackled by Harrison Smith…