Among the numerous personnel moves the Minnesota Vikings have made this off-season, one of the biggest might be the loss of cornerback Antoine Winfield. Though he was the oldest player on the Vikings' roster in 2012, he showed that he was still very effective as a slot cornerback, and the defense clearly suffered without him. The second half of the regular season finale against the Green Bay Packers showed as much.
However, one member of the Vikings' secondary doesn't feel that things are going to be that bad in 2013. That player is cornerback Chris Cook, who is now one of the leaders of the Minnesota secondary in the wake of Winfield's departure.
"I definitely don't see that being the case this year," Cook said. "We've got a lot of young, hungry guys. We put in a lot of extra time and we communicate very well and we spend a lot of time together bonding. ... I don't think we'll be what people think we'll be. I think we'll be probably, most definitely a top secondary this year."
If the Vikings are, in fact, going to be a top secondary in 2013, Cook is going to have to show that he can remain on the field. In two of his first three NFL seasons, Cook has missed more games than he's played. In 2010 he had issues with his knee that started in training camp, and in 2011 he had a well-publicized incident with his then-girlfriend that caused him to miss most of the year. In 2012 he played in 11 games (including the wild card playoff loss in Green Bay), but still missed six games with an arm injury. Overall, in his career, he has played in just 23 of 49 possible games. He's shown promise when he has played, but he needs to stay healthy for the secondary to reach the level he's talking about this coming season.
After Winfield's injury last season, the Vikings were down to using return specialist Marcus Sherels in the secondary, and he really got abused by Green Bay in the season finale. With Cook and the newly-drafted Xavier Rhodes on the outsides, and the continued development of players like Josh Robinson and A.J. Jefferson, the Vikings will have to gel quickly to show improvement against the passing offenses they'll see on their schedule in 2013.