Ranking Needs Going Into 2013--Defense And Special Teams

Lots of things need to get done this off season, but your mom is no longer one of them.

We looked at the offense yesterday. Let's turn our attention to the other side of the ball.

When I looked over the areas on offense that I think the Vikings will need to address, there really aren't a lot of holes. Maybe a small upgrade on the interior line, a couple wide receivers, a solid veteran backup QB...and that's really about it. Things are a little trickier on defense; the playmakers on that side of the ball are aging, for the most part, and holes will need to be filled at all levels. Let's take a look.

Defensive Line:

Guys currently on the roster:

DE: Jared Allen, Everson Griffen, George Johnson, D'Aundre Reed, Brian Robison

DT: Christian Ballard, Fred Evans, Letroy Guion, Kevin Williams

If these guys are back I'll impale myself with a gjallahorn: For ends, I don't see both Johnson and Reed coming back, so pick one. At tackle, as much as I love Kevin Williams, he's slipping but he'll return. Neither Evans or Guion do anything for me, but I don't see them going anywhere. They're not terrible, but when compared to the heyday of the Williams Wall, they're lacking.

Off Season Priority: Medium Low

All that said, Christian Ballard, who played well in spurts, also disappeared fro much longer spurts. Is that because he was at the back end of the defensive line rotation and his playing time wasn't as much as the other guys, or was it because he's just not that talented? I would like to believe it's the former, ad I think the Vikings have seen enough that he might get a chance to compete for a starting job. Williams has hinted that he's open to restructuring the last two years of his contract, and even though his level of play has dropped, he's still the best interior lineman on the team. Between Evans and Guion, Evans played okay, but Guion seemed to get steamrolled more often than not.

At the end position, I wouldn't really call it an embarrassment of riches, but it is a solid group of players. Jared Allen will be back, but I would be STUNNED if he didn't get a re-worked deal as well. Brian Robison had a good year while battling a shoulder injury for most of the season, and Ev Griffen really came on strong down the stretch. Both Robison and Griffen are in their contract year, and assuming Allen gets a short term extension to lessen his 2013 cap number, one of these two could be playing for an long term deal. Or...could the Vikings be looking to re-sign both Griffen and Robison while preparing to transition past the Jared Allen era?

Linebackers:

Guys currently on the roster: Jasper Brinkley, AUDIE COLE WOOOOOOOOO, Larry Dean, Chad Greenway, Erin Henderson, Marvin Mitchell, Tyrone McKenzie

If these guys come back I'll impale myself with a gjallahorn: Brinkley and Henderson

Off Season Priority: High

Chad Greenway is a stud, but after that, there's a lot of 'meh'. 2012 was a full season audition for Brinkley and Henderson, and neither guy really did anything to show that they were long term answers in the middle and on the outside. I really don't see either guy coming back, but I don't see the answer from the guys that are left, so new help is going to be added. And seriously Coach Frazier, RELEASE THE CROLEKEN WOOOOOOO! In all seriousness, Audie Cole probably isn't going to be the NFL linebacker version of Audie Murphy, nor the Kraken, but the guy is a semi-legend here on DN. Show us some love, give him an opportunity.

Cornerbacks:

Guys currently on the roster: Brandon Burton, Chris Cook, A.J. Jefferson, Greg McCoy, Josh Robinson, Marcus Sherels, Antoine Winfield, Nicholas Taylor

If these guys come back I'll impale myself with a gjallahorn: Jefferson, Sherels, Burton

Off Season Priority: Very High. Like the guy who jumped from 100,000 ft with a parachute high.

Antoine Winfield and Chis Cook make a very good CB tandem. If you'll recall, Fearless Leader told us that Pro Football Focus said they are the best CB tandem in the NFL, high praise indeed. But Winfield probably has only one year left on the Vikings, and Cook has yet to prove he can stick for 16 games. Josh Robinson looks to have a promising future, but struggled as a rookie. I expect him to keep getting better, though, because evan as a rookie he showed way more than Jefferson or Sherels. I like Marcus Sherels, but let's face it--punt returning is a job that can be done by many, and Sherels' skills in that department aren't enough to justify his glaring lack of ability as a defensive back.

But at least Sherels has some attributable skill, which is more than I can say for Jefferson. Sherels and Jefferson are a coverage scheme version of a tire fire, and the Vikings need to find a) Winfield's ultimate replacement, who could very well be Robinson, and b) guys that aren't completely devoid of talent as nickel and dime backs.

Safeties:

Guys currently on the roster: Robert Blanton, Mistral Raymond, Jamarca Sanford, Andrew Sandejo, Harrison Smith

If this guy comes back I'll impale myself with a gjallahorn: Raymond

Off Season Priority: Let's go with medium

Rick Spielman struck gold, Jerry, GOLD with Smith, and he will secure the free safety position for years. WOO! The strong safety play was better in 2012, but that's kind of like saying Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad doesn't seem as batshit crazy as he did last year. He's still batshit crazy though, just like the strong safety play for the Vikings is still subpar. Mistral Raymond seemed to come out of the gate fairly strong, but dislocated his ankle and wasn't quite the same after returning. Jamarca Sanford's play was better, but still inconsistent and struggled in coverage. That said, it seems to me he's a couple steps ahead of Raymond, and the Vikings could bring in someone to push Sanford for the starting job.

Special Teams:

Guys currently on the roster: Blair Walsh, Chris Kluwe, Colin Loeffler

If this guy comes back I'll impale myself with a gjallahorn: N/A, bitches

Off Season Priority: Low. Like lower than the average January temperature in International Falls

This is where words would go about needing an upgrade. But we don't need one. Because Blair Walsh just kicked another 55 yard field goal.

So there you have it. Two starting linebackers, some depth on the defensive line, and getting ready to find replacements for guys like Kevin Williams, Jared Allen, and Antoine Winfield top the list of things 'to-do' as the Vikings hit free agency and the draft in the coming weeks.

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