Sunday slant: Cook one of the key cogs

The Vikings are trying to get their team rebuilt from the all-in, aging group of 2010 to one with a continuous influx of young, emerging talent. The development and consistency of Chris Cook could go a long way to stabilizing the defensive future of the team. Plus, quick takes on teams beating the blitz, Percy Harvin being pulled from kickoffs and developing counter moves on offense.

The Vikings have their offensive and defensive centerpieces in place after signing Adrian Peterson and Chad Greenway to long-term contracts.

With Christian Ponder they hope to have an emerging franchise quarterback throwing to their playmaking receiver in Percy Harvin and exciting young tight end in Kyle Rudolph. That's a nice young group of established and emerging talent build a future.

On the defensive side of the ball, the line will return to 50 percent Pro Bowlers next week when Kevin Williams returns to join Jared Allen, and Antoine Winfield is still able to play at a high level.

If the Vikings are to continue building up the future of the team, cornerback Chris Cook needs to play big role. So far, the wisdom of that 2010 second-round pick is too early to determine. He looks the part on occasion, like last week against the San Diego Chargers, but it hasn't always been that way.

"It was a confidence booster going out there against one of the top receivers [Vincent Jackson] in the league and one of the best quarterbacks [Philip Rivers] in the league," Cook said. "I felt like I played pretty good. I felt like I could do much better."

That sounds like a pretty fair assessment.

After a rookie season that started with so much promise in the preseason, Cook's knees just didn't allow him to continue an early ascent. The first knee went south late in the preseason and, after a too-soon comeback attempt, his other knee balanced out the pain.

He was an all-too-public victim of the firing-on-all-cylinders Green Bay Packers passing attack, and that quickly set him up for criticism from a segment of Vikings fans who wanted to ignore or dismiss the pain in his knees and become a pain in his neck.

"I try not to let other people's judgments dictate my mood or how I approach the game. I know I can play the game," Cook said. "It's not that I don't care what other people think. I hear what they say and I take all criticism. I just try to build on it and just try to get better."

But a cornerback with two bad knees plays like a bad cornerback. That's not what Cook is. He has the talent, as he has shown on occasion, and the Vikings will need to continue to build on his performance in San Diego, when the first catch by a Chargers wide receiver didn't come until midway through the second quarter.

It was far from a perfect outing by Cook. He was flagged for illegal contact and pass interference. But in a game in which the Vikings were ultra-aggressive on defense – blitzing more than 40 percent of the time and sending as many eight pass rushers – they asked a lot of their cornerbacks in coverage and Cook generally performed well.

"As far as our coverage goes, I was very excited about our man coverage in the back end," defensive coordinator Fred Pagac said when asked about Cook. "I thought they played extremely well and, with the exception of his two penalties in that situation, I can't say a word to him about the one he got when he snagged the guy. He just has to have a little more discipline there. But as far as how they played, I was real happy about how we covered."

Pagac said he believes Cook has matured, and Cook backed that assessment by referencing the incident in which he was accused of brandishing a gun earlier this year back in his hometown. It was a learning experience, and Cook says he got the lesson.

"I went through a lot last year. Being injured and then going home and having a situation where I got into it with the guy, the pistol situation, that really opened my eyes to a lot," he said. "I'm at my hometown at my mom's house. I'm just hanging out and the guy comes at me. I don't know. That just opened my eyes and made me realize that everybody is not on my side. … I just keep what people say and how people feel about me in my head and it just motivates me."

Cook's reaction in the time following that incident suggests he has matured. He said he spent the majority of his summer at the University of Virginia taking summer classes. When he returned to his mother's house, he just avoided his problem two doors down.

Now, if his knees can hold up, he can make just as much progress on the field in the next four months as he did off the field in the last six months.

With Winfield in his 13th season and Cedric Griffin operating on two knees worse than Cook's, the Vikings need Cook to emerge and stabilize a defensive backfield in desperate need of consistent playmakers.

QUICK SLANTS

  • Vikings defensive linemen said one of the reasons the team only had two sacks while blitzing so much was because the Chargers were checking the ball down for a quick passing game. Fact is, until the Vikings stop that, it will be the formula to move the ball on them if other opposing offenses can remain as patient as San Diego was.

    "If I was on the other side, I might throw a check-down or two and go from there. Hopefully we'll be able to play it better," Pagac said. "We probably talked about that a little this week. Hopefully we'll get something done there."

    Count on the Bucs testing the Vikings in that category. Last week, running back Earnest Graham led Tampa Bay with eight receptions.

  • After Percy Harvin's kickoff return for a touchdown, the Vikings figured the Chargers wouldn't kick to him anyway, so they put Lorenzo Booker back deep for the next two kickoffs. However, when Harvin was re-inserted as the kick returner, the Bucs kicked it short and Everson Griffen returned it the 28-yard line. That's still better than a touchback, which makes even more of a case for putting Harvin back there. Even if teams don't kick it to him, the Vikings still stand to gain an advantage in field position and it would be no extra strain on Harvin as he prepares to play on offense. It's still advantage Vikings.

    "Absolutely, because to me, I've never been a guy about stats," special-teams coordinator Mike Priefer said. "I'm about field position and I've preached this to our team: It's all about where we give the offense the ball. Ball possession number one; number two, where do we give them the ball? Where does our drive start, and to me drive start average is much more important than kick return average any day of the week."

    Agreed. But Priefer, who wants Harvin back on kickoff returns all the time, ultimately doesn't get to make the call.

  • The Vikings also seemed to get away from a preseason strength on offense. Their first drive of the third preseason game should have been a blueprint for an effective way to the approach the regular season with their offensive personnel: Start with Peterson, which they did, and then run play-action. It just didn't appear they were consistent in the second part.

    "We wanted to roll out a few times in the opener, but they did a good job of bringing some edge pressure and making us get rid of the football a little sooner than we wanted to and it took away some of the things that we wanted to do in our game plan and we just have to continue to work to improve and go to some secondary things that can help us when that happens because we're going to be in situations where someone might take away something we thought might be there and that could happen this weekend and we'll have to adjust," Frazier said.

    There's the key. The Vikings will have to learn how to adjust better. The right mix should bring a win against the Bucs and help everyone on offense gain a rhythm, which is exactly what offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave admitted he needed to do better.


    Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.



  • Viking Update Top Stories

    \r\n\r\n","mobileBody":"The Vikings have their offensive and defensive centerpieces in place after signing Adrian Peterson and Chad Greenway to long-term contracts. With Christian Ponder they hope to have an emerging franchise quarterback throwing to their playmaking receiver in Percy Harvin and exciting young tight end in Kyle Rudolph. That's a nice young group of established and emerging talent build a future. On the defensive side of the ball, the line will return to 50 percent Pro Bowlers next week when Kevin Williams returns to join Jared Allen, and Antoine Winfield is still able to play at a high level. If the Vikings are to continue building up the future of the team, cornerback Chris Cook needs to play big role. So far, the wisdom of that 2010 second-round pick is too early to determine. He looks the part on occasion, like last week against the San Diego Chargers, but it hasn't always been that way. \"It was a confidence booster going out there against one of the top receivers [Vincent Jackson] in the league and one of the best quarterbacks [Philip Rivers] in the league,\" Cook said. \"I felt like I played pretty good. I felt like I could do much better.\" That sounds like a pretty fair assessment. After a rookie season that started with so much promise in the preseason, Cook's knees just didn't allow him to continue an early ascent. The first knee went south late in the preseason and, after a too-soon comeback attempt, his other knee balanced out the pain. He was an all-too-public victim of the firing-on-all-cylinders Green Bay Packers passing attack, and that quickly set him up for criticism from a segment of Vikings fans who wanted to ignore or dismiss the pain in his knees and become a pain in his neck. \"I try not to let other people's judgments dictate my mood or how I approach the game. I know I can play the game,\" Cook said. \"It's not that I don't care what other people think. I hear what they say and I take all criticism. I just try to build on it and just try to get better.\" But a cornerback with two bad knees plays like a bad cornerback. That's not what Cook is. He has the talent, as he has shown on occasion, and the Vikings will need to continue to build on his performance in San Diego, when the first catch by a Chargers wide receiver didn't come until midway through the second quarter. It was far from a perfect outing by Cook. He was flagged for illegal contact and pass interference. But in a game in which the Vikings were ultra-aggressive on defense – blitzing more than 40 percent of the time and sending as many eight pass rushers – they asked a lot of their cornerbacks in coverage and Cook generally performed well. \"As far as our coverage goes, I was very excited about our man coverage in the back end,\" defensive coordinator Fred Pagac said when asked about Cook. \"I thought they played extremely well and, with the exception of his two penalties in that situation, I can't say a word to him about the one he got when he snagged the guy. He just has to have a little more discipline there. But as far as how they played, I was real happy about how we covered.\" Pagac said he believes Cook has matured, and Cook backed that assessment by referencing the incident in which he was accused of brandishing a gun earlier this year back in his hometown. It was a learning experience, and Cook says he got the lesson. \"I went through a lot last year. Being injured and then going home and having a situation where I got into it with the guy, the pistol situation, that really opened my eyes to a lot,\" he said. \"I'm at my hometown at my mom's house. I'm just hanging out and the guy comes at me. I don't know. That just opened my eyes and made me realize that everybody is not on my side. … I just keep what people say and how people feel about me in my head and it just motivates me.\" Cook's reaction in the time following that incident suggests he has matured. He said he spent the majority of his summer at the University of Virginia taking summer classes. When he returned to his mother's house, he just avoided his problem two doors down. Now, if his knees can hold up, he can make just as much progress on the field in the next four months as he did off the field in the last six months. With Winfield in his 13th season and Cedric Griffin operating on two knees worse than Cook's, the Vikings need Cook to emerge and stabilize a defensive backfield in desperate need of consistent playmakers.
  • Vikings defensive linemen said one of the reasons the team only had two sacks while blitzing so much was because the Chargers were checking the ball down for a quick passing game. Fact is, until the Vikings stop that, it will be the formula to move the ball on them if other opposing offenses can remain as patient as San Diego was. \"If I was on the other side, I might throw a check-down or two and go from there. Hopefully we'll be able to play it better,\" Pagac said. \"We probably talked about that a little this week. Hopefully we'll get something done there.\" Count on the Bucs testing the Vikings in that category. Last week, running back Earnest Graham led Tampa Bay with eight receptions.
  • After Percy Harvin's kickoff return for a touchdown, the Vikings figured the Chargers wouldn't kick to him anyway, so they put Lorenzo Booker back deep for the next two kickoffs. However, when Harvin was re-inserted as the kick returner, the Bucs kicked it short and Everson Griffen returned it the 28-yard line. That's still better than a touchback, which makes even more of a case for putting Harvin back there. Even if teams don't kick it to him, the Vikings still stand to gain an advantage in field position and it would be no extra strain on Harvin as he prepares to play on offense. It's still advantage Vikings. \"Absolutely, because to me, I've never been a guy about stats,\" special-teams coordinator Mike Priefer said. \"I'm about field position and I've preached this to our team: It's all about where we give the offense the ball. Ball possession number one; number two, where do we give them the ball? Where does our drive start, and to me drive start average is much more important than kick return average any day of the week.\" Agreed. But Priefer, who wants Harvin back on kickoff returns all the time, ultimately doesn't get to make the call.
  • The Vikings also seemed to get away from a preseason strength on offense. Their first drive of the third preseason game should have been a blueprint for an effective way to the approach the regular season with their offensive personnel: Start with Peterson, which they did, and then run play-action. It just didn't appear they were consistent in the second part. \"We wanted to roll out a few times in the opener, but they did a good job of bringing some edge pressure and making us get rid of the football a little sooner than we wanted to and it took away some of the things that we wanted to do in our game plan and we just have to continue to work to improve and go to some secondary things that can help us when that happens because we're going to be in situations where someone might take away something we thought might be there and that could happen this weekend and we'll have to adjust,\" Frazier said. There's the key. The Vikings will have to learn how to adjust better. The right mix should bring a win against the Bucs and help everyone on offense gain a rhythm, which is exactly what offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave admitted he needed to do better.
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