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How Much Of A Difference Can Chris Cook Make For Minnesota?

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Chris Cook's struggles in his rookie season came on the field. . .or, more accurately, staying on it, thanks to some knee issues. His struggles in his second season were off the field, as his legal issues were well documented. Now that he's entering his third season in the NFL, having missed nearly twice as many games as he's played (20 games missed, 12 games played), big things are expected of him. Kevin Seifert, ESPN's NFC North blogger, has something on his blog today that shows that those expectations might not be completely unfounded.

Chris Cook saw action in the first six games of the 2011 NFL season for the Vikings. Despite the Vikings going 1-5 in those games, the pass defense wasn't the liability it became later on. In those first six games of the season, opponents completed 63.9% of their passes, threw eight touchdown passes against six interceptions, and the Vikings had a quarterback rating allowed of 78.6. For a full season, a QB rating allowed of 78.6 would have placed the Vikings in seventh in the NFL in that category. . .and you can damn sure bet they wouldn't have gone 3-13.

Then Cook got into his legal troubles. That, coupled with the injury to Antoine Winfield (which I'm still waiting for ESPN to acknowledge) meant bad things for the Vikings' pass defense. Over the last ten games of the year, Vikings' opponents completed nearly three out of every four pass attempts (72.5%), had a mind-blowing touchdown-to-interception ratio of 26/2, and passed for a quarterback rating of 126.6. To put that into context, Aaron Rodgers' quarterback rating last season was was 122.5.

Yeah. . .that's a bit of a difference.

Cook played solid football when he was on the field last year. Yeah, he got beaten by Calvin Johnson a couple times, but hey. . .that's Calvin Johnson. He does that to a lot of people. He also made a few nice plays in that game against the Lions, as well as a few nice plays in the Sunday night game against the Chicago Bears, and had seven total pass break-ups in the Vikings' first six games.

With Cook and Winfield coming back, as well as an infusion of talent behind them on the depth chart in the likes of Chris Carr and third-round pick Josh Robinson, it's not a stretch to say that the Vikings' secondary stands a chance to be markedly better in 2012 than they were in 2011.

Only 17 days until Training Camp starts, folks.