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Smoot Benched; Griffin to Start Against Arizona. . .Maybe

Well. . .a change probably needed to be made, but I wasn't sure if it was going to be this soon.


Six-year veteran Fred Smoot, who was supposed to team with Antoine Winfield to provide the Minnesota Vikings one of the best cornerback tandems in the NFL, has been benched in favor of rookie Cedric Griffin.

Coach Brad Childress said Friday that both will see plenty of action Sunday against Arizona.

"I think the best thing is that the guys that give us the best chance to win are on the field," Childress said. "It's on merit, and Cedric has played well and therefore he goes to the front of the line."

Complicating the issue is a neck and shoulder injury Griffin suffered against Miami. Childress said Griffin had "another episode" in practice Friday and is listed as questionable for the game.

Griffin, a second-round pick out of Texas, was vague about his condition Friday, saying he felt good enough to play against the Cardinals' gifted receiver corps.

It is not known how long the demotion will last, but if Griffin plays well in Sunday's home game against the Arizona Cardinals, it is conceivable that the second-round draft choice and former University of Texas star could keep the job the rest of the season. Griffin is a physical hitter, a cornerback blessed with safety-type size, and the Vikings coaches like his tenacity.

Great. . .going against Fitzgerald, Boldin, and Bryant Johnson with a secondary that's less than full strength?  I don't much like the sounds of that at all.  Hopefully the Vikings can get some serious pressure on Leinart. . .and there's no reason they shouldn't, because Arizona's offensive line is downright terrible. . .if they don't, it could be an extremely long day on Sunday, even with a rookie under center for Arizona.

As far as Smoot getting benched, I think it's a bit overdue, considering the way #21 has played over the course of this season.  It's frustrating seeing Winfield and Griffin lined up right on their guys at the line of scrimmage, with Smoot constantly playing 10 yards off his man.

On the other hand, Smoot has had a rough few weeks. . .he had to deal with the death of his half-brother, which caused him to miss the Green Bay game.  He's fought injury the entire time he's been a Viking, too.

I think Fred Smoot, in the right system, is still a good NFL cornerback.  I'm just not sure if the Cover 2 scheme that Mike Tomlin wants to run is the system for him.  Griffin and Winfield are both very physical, and both tackle well. . .two traits that are desired in Cover 2 corners, and two traits that, to put it mildly, aren't Smoot's strongest attributes.

In other lineup news, Sean Jensen of the St. Paul Pioneer Press has this to say about embattled receiver Troy Williamson:

It is unclear whether Williamson will start Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals. But veteran Marcus Robinson replaced him in the starting lineup Sunday in Miami, and Williamson's role is expected to diminish even more as he continues to struggle catching the ball. He leads the NFL with 10 dropped passes.

Robinson could start ahead of Williamson, and Bethel Johnson also could take some of Williamson's snaps.

While I'm happy that Randy Moss is gone. . .and we all should be, considering the way he's conducting himself out in Oakland. . .it pains me to see the guy we drafted with the pick we got in exchange for him struggling as much as Troy Williamson is.  The guy has speed that can be matched by very few NFL wide receivers.  But, if you can't catch the ball, none of that matters.  I sure as heck hope he can get it turned around. . .he's got all the potential in the world if he can get his case of the dropsies under control.

Of course, neither of these roster moves address the biggest problem with the Minnesota Vikings, and that's the fact that Brad Johnson is still the starting quarterback.  Brad Childress can rotate all the receivers and linemen and defensive backs he wants. . .until he cuts the real anchor loose, the longboat isn't going to be sailing anywhere.

(Yes, that was LONGboat. . .not Love Boat. . .that's not sailing anywhere ever again, hopefully.)

That's all for tonight, folks.  Enjoy the rest of Black Friday, and we'll see you back here tomorrow!