Analysis

“Big Nickel” Jayron Kearse Will Be Big Part of Vikings Defense

At the end of last season, safety Jayron Kearse had a limited role with the Minnesota Vikings. With the recent injury to slot corner Mackensie Alexander, Kearse could become a critical component of the Minnesota defense.

For readers that aren’t familiar with the fourth-year safety, Kearse was a seventh-round pick out of Clemson. Despite his hype coming out of college, he hasn’t seen much action as a safety behind Harrison Smith, Anthony Harris, and formerly, Andrew Sendejo. Kearse is a valued special teams player, but his reps with the defense are limited to plays that call for a “big nickel” to be brought in. Kearse is 6’4” and literally fits this role well.

In his fourth year, Kearse will need to make a statement if he wants to earn a new contract. Now, he’s primed to do so. Mackensie Alexander has been an excellent slot corner, but he might be out of commission for a couple weeks. Normally, Mike Hughes would fill in at nickel, but he’s still recovering from an ACL tear. With both nickel corners out of commission, coach Zimmer will likely employ the big nickel more often. If Jayron can seamlessly fill Alexander’s shoes, Mike Zimmer would be hard pressed not to give him a larger long-term role in the defense. GM Rick Spielman would also seriously consider a new contract.

There’s no better time to show his stuff than against Green Bay. Aaron Rodgers hasn’t beaten the Vikings in over 900 days, and we all know he’s hoping to end that streak. Intercepting or sacking a quarterback of Rodgers’ caliber would be a huge play for anyone, but especially Kearse. With his size and athleticism, I think fans will be seeing some big plays on Sunday.

Beyond this weekend’s matchup, Jayron will be invaluable if Alexander is unable to return. The Vikings reported that Alexander dislocated his elbow, but there’s no saying how long he’ll be out. Like many fans, I’m excited to watch Jayron play more downs with the defense. Fans have gotten so used to watching him as a gunner on special teams, but he was an excellent defensive back in high school and college. He had seven interceptions as a Clemson Tiger, and hopefully he can get his first as a Minnesota Viking.

For more Minnesota Vikings content, you can follow Reid Johnson on Twitter, Instagram, or subscribe to his personal Vikings blog, Purple Reign News

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