Who Will Win the Vikings Cornerback Battle?
Training camp is just over one week away. The rookies will report on the 24th for a headstart against the veterans. Their arrival will be on the 26th.
Like always, most starters are set, and they use the camp to get used to the new playbook and to get their conditioning right. But for some others, training camp is more than a ramp-up period. Their whole careers can change as they fight for a roster spot, and it could be their last shot at becoming an NFL player. Others fight for a starting job. The most exciting job battle is probably for the starting right guard job. However, the Vikings have multiple cornerbacks available who battle for two available outside starting cornerback jobs.
The Competitors for the Vikings CB Battle
The veteran is the favorite. He’ll most likely start in Week 1. He has to prove that he still can play at a high level, as he just turned 32 years old, so he’s long past the magical 30 where dropoffs in terms of performance can happen rather quickly. Between 2011 and 2019, Peterson was one of the elite cornerbacks in football. He earned eight consecutive trips to the Pro Bowl; his first miss was in 2019, and he was named to three All-Pro first-teams.
In 2020, after turning 30, his play declined. He couldn’t contain receivers in man coverage anymore, which will be a big problem in Ed Donatell’s scheme. Cornerbacks can’t play zone coverage all the time. In 2021, he played solid football again in a more zone-heavy defensive system in Mike Zimmer’s defense. He was rarely the target of opposing quarterbacks, as they preferred to throw in the direction of Beshaud Breeland. His experience will probably give him the edge, but the question is how much his play will decline.
Dantzler played some marvelous football in the last two seasons, despite some rookie mistakes. Why he didn’t start over Breeland until his departure, however, will forever be a big question about the 2021 season because he was obviously the better cornerback. Rumors about him and Mike Zimmer’s doghouse surfaced.
Dantzler was a third-round draft selection of Rick Spielman after the top three cornerbacks of the 2019 season, Xavier Rhodes, Trae Waynes, and Mackensie Alexander left in free agency. Dantzler instantly opened some eyes when he went head to head with Adam Thielen and even drew praise from the wideout. He looked like a good rookie cornerback for the first half of his rookie campaign. After recovering from a concussion, he played the last games of the season fantastic football and looked like a veteran. He shut down the opponent’s top targets. Dantzler was touted as a future superstar, but things apparently went wrong in the 2021 preseason. He has the coverage skills and, after putting on more weight in the offseason, the frame to be a top cornerback in the league. However, there’s still a chance that Zimmer was right about him, which is a slight concern. The new scheme, meanwhile, should fit him perfectly.
If the new coaching staff can give him more confidence, he could be a massive factor for the 2022 Vikings and will be a tough matchup in the cornerback camp battle.
Andrew Booth Jr.
Booth was the second selection in the life of general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah. He starred on Clemson´s defense last season. His superpowers are elite aggressiveness and absurd athleticism. Both of those things lead to insane highlights and catches that look like he’s Cris Carter reincarnated.
Booth has just one year of starting experience and missed the OTAs and spring workouts because of a core surgery. He has excellent instincts, is a hard hitter, and possesses the competitiveness of an elite cornerback. His talent speaks for itself, but the missed time in the offseason could lead to some rookie struggles.
Evans, a fourth-round pick and Adofo-Mensah’s draft crush, played four seasons for Tulsa and his final season in Missouri. He dominated the competition during his stint in Tulsa but finally found some competition in the SEC after transferring. Evans has the frame and the testing results of elite cornerbacks in football. But the fundamentals, especially in the running game, and his tendency to draw penalties in coverage must be improved before he’ll be on the field in the NFL. The fan favorite won’t start in Week 1 and maybe won’t even start any game in his rookie year, but he could be a great player for the Vikings long-term.
Who Starts for Vikings at CB in Week 1?
In Week 1, Patrick Peterson and Cameron Dantzler will start after securing the spots in training camp. Their experience will help them to win the jobs. It’s certainly a possibility that Booth will take one of the spots by force later in the season after getting used to NFL speed. The question is which one. It could be in place of a struggling Dantzler who has a few mental hiccups or for Peterson, who just fell off the age cliff. The third possibility is that all three are good, but Booth is just better.
At the very least, the Vikings brought in a talented rookie after struggling badly with the cornerbacks in back-to-back seasons. The position was a big reason why the Vikings didn’t reach the playoffs, and the camp battle has to bring two solid cornerbacks if the Vikings want to win anything in 2022.
Janik Eckardt is a football fan who likes numbers and stats. The Vikings became his favorite team despite their quarterback at the time, Christian Ponder. He is a walking soccer encyclopedia, loves watching sitcoms, and Classic rock is his music genre of choice. Follow him on Twitter if you like the Vikings: @JanikEckardt