As I was working my way through my news feed, I stumbled across this Yahoo article, which provided an analysis of the "Weakest Position" of all 32 NFL teams. What position did they identify as the weakest for the Vikings? Short answer: Linebacker. Here's what they had to say:
--LINEBACKER: If not the weakest position, it will be at least suspect unless or until first-round draft pick Anthony Barr proves himself. Even if Barr does contribute immediately, the unit is thin and so far there are more questions than obvious answers.
Nine-year veteran Chad Greenway is steady and healthy, but can he keep pace and do all of the things head coach Mike Zimmer will ask of him as a three-down player at age 31? Will Barr be able to transform freakish physical tools into a productive NFL linebacker? Can Jasper Brinkley play well enough to fill the gaping hole at middle linebacker? And who among the several intriguing but unproven prospects -- Audie Cole, Michael Mauti and Gerald Hodges, among others -- will step forward to provide reliable depth and/or push Brinkley and Barr?
I think there are still some weak links on this team, and linebacker is surely one of them. But the lack of depth at linebacker can be hidden in a variety of ways. First, in nickel formations, there would likely only be two linebackers on the field (Greenway and Barr presumably). While they are correct to call the youngsters into question, I'd like to think that at least one of Cole/Mauti/Hodges can make the jump to reliable starter this year. And let's not forget about Jasper Brinkley, who is an adequate 2-down linebacker. Second, if they utilize some hybrid 3-4 looks, the pass rushing defensive ends would drop back into the OLB role, and again, we would only need to field two "inside linebackers". This group isn't as bad as it looks, and there are ways to minimize the weaknesses and lack of experience.
For my money, the weakest link is cornerback. While I like the signing of Captain Munnerlyn in free agency, and Xavier Rhodes looks like the real deal on the outside, we desperately need another starting caliber cornerback. Munnerlyn is more of a slot cornerback, but can play on outside in base formations too. Even still, we need another dominant corner opposite Rhodes, especially when the team is in the nickel (which we will probably be in a lot since we are thin at linebacker). I'm not a believer in Josh Robinson (yet), and Derek Cox is going to have to have quite a career turnaround for me to get on board. After that we've got a lot of youth and unproven talent. I don't think it's a coincidence that the Vikings reached out to former Chief Brandon Flowers recently to address what I believe is the weakest link on the team.
Either way, it's clear that both linebacker and cornerback are still weaknesses on the Vikings defense heading into 2014. One could even make a strong case for safety too. It's just a matter of which one you think is the weakest. My money is on cornerback.