The Minnesota Vikings will likely need big improvement in the secondary to be competitive in 2012, and rookie Josh Robinson will play a part in that. (Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-US PRESSWIRE)
Going into the off-season, we knew that the biggest weak point on the Minnesota Vikings' roster was probably the defensive secondary. We've been over the numbers before, but let's recap just how bad they were, shall we?
-The Vikings tied for the lowest interception total in the NFL with 8.
-The Vikings set a new NFL record by going nine full games without an interception, and were about five minutes away from a tenth straight before Rex Grossman graciously hit Mistral Raymond between the 4 and the 1 on his jersey on Christmas Eve.
-The Vikings had a passer rating allowed of 107.6, which was the second-worst such rating of all-time, with only the 0-16 Lions of 2008 being worse (110.9). Again, to compare, Tom Brady's QB rating last season was 105.6.
-The Vikings' secondary managed this despite being part of a defense that generated 50 sacks, a total that was tied for the NFL lead in that category with the Philadelphia Eagles.
But, in case you needed further confirmation of just how bad it got last year, here's a little tidbit from Judd Zulgad of 1500 ESPN.
In fact, Frazier decided to give a specific example of just how challenged the shorthanded Vikings secondary was at one point last season.
"We played a team, I won't mention the team," Frazier said. "One of the secondary coaches called me after the game and said, 'Man, going into the game, we knew if we put this package on the field you could match up, if we did this you couldn't match up. I don't know what you are going to do, but you guys have to address your secondary.'"
Yes, it got so bad that opposing coaches were calling Leslie Frazier and saying, "Dude, you need to fix this." (Although I'm guessing that they didn't call him "dude." They might not be into the whole brevity thing.)
If nothing else, it appears that the Vikings have at least made an effort to do just that. The following is a list of the cornerbacks the Vikings were employing in the final game of the 2011 season against the Chicago Bears, in no particular order.
Cedric Griffin - In his defense, Cedric was a warrior for trying to come back from what he did. However, he had been benched (but, strangely, not deactivated) for a couple games prior to this one for not following his assignments.
Asher Allen - Retired this off-season because he didn't feel like playing any more.
Benny Sapp - A few weeks prior, Sapp had been watching NFL games from his couch at home.
Marcus Sherels - Solid return man, didn't hold up well at corner.
Brandon Burton - Fifth-round pick, thrown into the fire well before he probably should have been.
Compare that to what the team should be starting with in Week 1 against Jacksonville:
Antoine Winfield - Elder statesman of the team, but played well prior to injury last year.
Chris Cook - Also looked good in 2011 before trying out for the Mean Machine.
Chris Carr - Has had a rough first couple pre-season games, but is a veteran and can hopefully turn it around.
Josh Robinson - Third-round pick, but has looked fairly impressive in limited action.
Either Burton or Zackary Bowman, either of whom would be a serviceable #5 CB, IMO.
To say nothing of the upgrades at the safety position. Harrison Smith has already been elevated to the starting lineup, and has looked good so far. Raymond, after being thrown into the fire last year towards the end of the season, will probably lock down the other safety spot and should be improved.
So, if the Vikings' secondary is atrocious enough this season to have Leslie Frazier getting calls from opposing coaches, it won't be because they haven't tried to upgrade it, at least.