I think the 2012 Vikings defense has a lot more to work with at this point than 2011. There seems to be some uncertainty at every level (line, LB, CB, and S), but it looks like there's some good talent - provided players can stay on the field the whole year and injuries don't strike.
The question for me is who will be the "Quarterback of the Defense"? I have some speculation after the jump, but I'd really like some opinions.
When I watch games or NFL films, it usually seems like the safety has this job. I particularly remember John Lynch calling "sluggo seam" out before a Raider's play in the superbowl where he picks off a pass to help his Bucs win the game. He sees the formation, knows the down and distance, and directs the defenders to deal with what he thinks is coming.
With the Vikings, it's not even clear who wil be the starting safeties. Taking Harrison Smith in the first round of the draft seems to make it likely that he will be a starter. But will the defense follow a rookie? I really like Mistral Raymond - that guy has heart. He played some last year, but he's still really young. Robert Blanton might compete at safety, but he's another rookie. Jamarca Sanford has been around for a while, but I feel like he has had some chances to step up (granted, it's probably hard to step up when you're getting rotated in and out as a started over the weeks).
Maybe we'll find a leader from the cornerback position? The one choice that seems possible is Antoine Winfield. I'm guessing he does a fair amount of leading and on-field coaching of the DB's already. I don't know if he will always be in position to see the whole play though.
Watching Ray Lewis play, it's clear there can be plenty of on-field directing from the linebacker position. Here it seems like Chad Greenway would be the guy to step up in terms of his tenure and acknowledged value on the team. I would guess you can see most of what you need from an outside LB position. Middle LB seems better, but this seems like the place where the Vikes would have a less experienced guy.
There's no doubt that there are defensive leaders on line. Jared Allen and Kevin Williams must have a ton of respect. And I'm sure they get guys pumped up in the huddle. But I think nobody on the line can really be the one to see and adjust based on watching the whole field.
Maybe I'm just imagining a problem here. It's possible each unit knows what they need to do, and they only need to communicate amongst themselves. But it seemed like many times last year, the Vikings defenders were out of position. You can put that blame on the individual player, but I think the great defenses have someone who steps up to lead the defense on the field and make sure those problems don't happen. I'm wondering who that guy is going to be for the Vikings in 2012.
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