29 solo tackles, 6 assisted tackles, 1 interception, 1 forced fumble, 1 pass deflected later, all in four games... at 34 years of age, Antoine Winfield remains the man.
There’s of course just one problem with that stat line, and it’s not his age- it’s that ‘four games’ part, seeing as how the Vikings have played six.
As we are all well aware, Winfield injured his neck in the loss to the Chiefs, and was out the past two games. While he did participate in limited practice this week and is considered a possibility to see the field against Green Bay, we can’t kid ourselves. One of the hardest-hitting tacklers in the league is 34 years old and currently nursing a neck injury- and ladies and gents, that’s a tad bit worse than the dreaded pulled hammy, high ankle sprain, etc. that players regularly battle their way back from.
Right now, our secondary is at least better than the 2010 version, but it’s still not all that great. Our safeties have been what I might consider a slight upgrade… but that’s like saying I’m a slight upgrade in impartial judgment from Nancy Grace. Chris Cook and Cedric Griffin are healthier this season, and are outperforming last year’s… thing. Even Asher Allen, my own personal whipping boy, I’ll admit has had a step up this season.
Furthermore, in a division with Aaron Rodgers and Matthew Stafford (and I guess Jay Cutler from time to time), we’re going to need at least a solid secondary to legitimately compete. So… we have two options now. Join me after the leap of faith for further breakdown.
OK, so our two options are: A.) Leave Antoine Winfield at cornerback, consider extending him a year, and let his body completely go through the inevitable breakdown, or B.) Move Antoine Winfield to safety, hope we can eke out a solid three… maybe even four… years of production out of him at that position. (I know, 38 would be quite the feat, but the way he’s held together this long at corner makes me think it’s not entirely out of the realm of possibilities.)
Now, shifting Winfield from corner to safety is, in a way, robbing Peter to pay Paul. We make our cornerback position weaker to strengthen our safety position. However, I believe the likely extension in Winfield’s ‘shelf life’ makes it the logical decision. At safety, we can have a bit longer to shore up the secondary while also looking at a few of our other major, as well as impending, needs (O-line being, IMO, #1).
We’re a team whose either got critical holes to fill, or is aging at critical positions (ergo, which will soon become the next ‘critical holes’). We’ll need the occasional move like this to buy ourselves a little time. And at this point, I believe the neck injury is the sign- we need to make the move sooner rather than later, before we lose one of the most critical pieces of our defense altogether.
What say you, Viking faithful? Tis better to move Winfield to safety, or leave him at corner?