Weekly Viking Roundup

Talkin’ about cornerbacks

Last week, we took a look at the Minnesota Vikings’ linebacker depth chart. If you happened to miss the article, you can find it on my Facebook page through the web address that’s listed below.

Jordan COLUMN BOXLast week, we took a look at the Minnesota Vikings’ linebacker depth chart. If you happened to miss the article, you can find it on my Facebook page through the web address that’s listed below.

The Minnesota Vikings’ secondary was an above average unit last season. I truly wanted to say they were one of the better defensive backfields in the league, but after digging further into the stats, I was slightly disappointed. It’s true the Vikings have made significant advancements in the secondary since Mike Zimmer took over, but there is still some room for improvement.

In 2015 the Vikings finished 12th in the league in both yards given up through the air and yards per attempt, allowing 3,762 and 6.2, respectively. They were also 11th in both touchdowns allowed through the air (24) and first downs surrendered (289). While it’s nice that the Vikings have a secondary that is statistically in the top half of the league, the pieces are there to become a top 10 unit in the NFL.

Starters: Xavier Rhodes, Terence Newman, Captain Munnerlyn

Xavier Rhodes was drafted in the first round of the 2013 draft. After only starting six games his rookie season, he has started every game since. At 6 feet 3 inches, 218 pounds, Rhodes is the biggest CB on the roster and has shown the ability to hold his own against the bigger receivers in the league. Pro Football Focus gave Rhodes a player grade of 70.6, ranking him 58th in the league. Entering his fourth season, Rhodes will need to take a step forward if he wants to be considered one of the better cornerbacks in the league.

Terence Newman will be 38 years old on Sept. 4, but as he proved last year, he can still play at a high level. Given a player grade of 76.3 by PFF, Newman ranked 39th in the league. Until it’s clear he doesn’t have what it takes to keep up with NFL receivers, Newman will be the starter across from Rhodes.

Captain Munnerlyn had a subpar 2014 season, his first in purple and gold. However, in 2015 Munnerlyn became Minnesota’s best cornerback and the 18th best CB in the NFL with a player grade of 82.3. While technically the Vikings’ base defense (4-3) only has two “starting” cornerbacks, Munnerlyn played more snaps (760) than Chad Greenway (663), which is why he is considered a starter here.

Backups: Trae Waynes, Mackensie Alexander

Trae Waynes will likely start the season as a backup, but if Newman’s speed declines, Waynes will be the first off the bench. Waynes played in 15 games last season and only started one, yet it was easy to see the improvement throughout the season. Given a player grade of 72.9, Trae will look to continue his ascension in year two. It’s not a matter of “if” he will start, just a matter of when.

Mackensie Alexander was drafted in the second round and is likely the heir apparent to Captain Munnerlyn as the slot CB. Alexander is one of the players I am most excited to see play this pre-season, and I expect him to play a lot, similar to Waynes last year.

On the bubble: Marcus Sherels, Jabari Price, Melvin White, Keith Baxter, Tre Roberson

Marcus Sherels will be the one from this group to make the team if the Vikings decide to keep six cornerbacks on the roster, as he is a skilled and reliable punt return man. Jabari Price was a seventh round draft pick by the Vikings in 2014, and he may find himself on the practice squad. Although he’s a long shot to make the final roster, the Vikings like what they saw from Melvin White when he was in Carolina, so they signed him to a contract this past off-season. Keith Baxter is an undrafted rookie out of Marshall and Tre Roberson is a former quarterback at Illinois State who will be making a transition to CB in the NFL. Both Baxter and Roberson will have difficulties making the roster.

Next week we will be taking a look at the safeties and special team players. If you have anything specific you’d like to know about them, or if you have any comments or questions about the defensive ends, reach out to me! E-mail: skoljwright@gmail.com, Facebook: facebook.com/skoljwright, or Twitter: @skoljwright.

Also, don’t forget… football is back! Next Sunday will be the Hall of Fame game, and there won’t be another Sunday without football until February!

Jordan Wright is a sports columnist covering the Minnesota Vikings. His work can be read in papers in North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota and on TheVikingAge.com.