Cornerback Brandon Burton may have been the player who stepped up the plate to help his cause the most in the Vikings' preseason finale Thursday night.
Burton, the Vikings' fifth-round draft choice, got the start and extensive playing time in the Vikings' 28-0 win over Houston Texans. His coverage skills were also on display during a third-quarter interception.
"I think he did some good things throughout this preseason and we will sit down and discuss him as well and try and make a determination, who are the best 53, but I think he showed well for himself," Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said after Thursday's win.
It appears Burton did enough to make the 53-man roster.
Burton played in a similar scheme at Utah, but he said the Vikings are teaching different techniques.
"Coming in here, no OTAs and just being thrown in the mix you have to learn pretty quick," he said. "It takes a little bit of time, so my first week I struggled a little bit. But you start to get the timing down and the defense down and you're not thinking as much so you play fast. I'm starting to get everything down and being real comfortable."
Burton won't be a starter one the regular season begins Sept. 11 in San Diego, but if he does indeed make the Vikings' 53-man roster, that's a good start for a player who declared himself eligible for the NFL after his junior season. He and all of the Vikings' many newcomers have had to learn in a hurry once the NFL lockout ended just five weeks ago.
At this point, Burton said he is "fine-tuning everything," but his third-quarter interception against the Houston Texans showed he can stay with receivers in coverage and leap to grab a ball high in the air. With the Vikings, he will also be asked to support the run.
"Definitely in this defense there's a lot of run support. I'd say more in college we played a lot of man-to-man coverage. It was more about covering the guy than actually making tackles," he said. "Here, that's who they depend on for tackles is their corners. They spill everything out to us. It's a little bit more demanding tackling here, but I love to tackle and I work on it every day."
Burton may be one of the last cornerbacks on the Vikings' depth chart. Cedric Griffin and Antoine Winfield will be the starters, and Chris Cook is expected be inserted in the nickel defense. Former University of Minnesota cornerback Marcus Sherels has also shown he can stick with receivers and knock down passes, but Burton should be in the mix with Sherels for the final roster spots among cornerbacks.
"I feel like I'm doing well out here and just trying to contribute to the team as much you can," he said. "The depth chart is kind of everywhere in the preseason, but I'm definitely getting the timing, and getting a lot of playing time is helping me a lot."
Frazier, a former NFL cornerback himself, said Burton made progress during the preseason.
"He has shown steady improvement all year long," Frazier said. "The fact that you didn't get to see him back in May or June, this time was so important for him, from July 31 to now so that we could get a better feel for what he can do at this level. He has gotten better every week and every practice."
After Thursday's performance, it appears a spot on the 53-man roster awaits.
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
CB Burton proved himself in preseason
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