Secondary options all being reviewed

The Vikings took a different approach in covering Steve Smith, but this week will be spent evaluating their options in the secondary. Antoine Winfield said he's ready to return and other changes at cornerback and safety are all on the table.

The Vikings secondary comes down to this: A veteran cornerback with a pain in his neck, another veteran struggling on two bad knees, a rookie who is suspended and might not make it on the roster through Thanksgiving and a safety position that has been rotating players and could have a rookie join the rotation.

As the Vikings' coaching staff considers its options for the second half of the 2011 season, they enter their bye week with a 2-6 record. While players will have Tuesday through Sunday off, coaches will be doing a self-scout and discussing potential changes for the coming months. Some of those changes could be implemented in a secondary in flux.

Antoine Winfield, the 13-year veteran who has missed the last four games with a ligament strain in his neck, said Monday he will return to action on time to face Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers when Minnesota resumes play on Nov. 14.

"He's very close (to returning)," Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said of Winfield. "He went through some contact drills at the end of the week. Felt a little bit, wasn't quite confident to go out there and go full contact. All indications are we should get him back for our next ballgame."

The return of Winfield could cause some other changes at cornerback. With Cedric Griffin struggling after having surgery to repair each of his anterior cruciate ligaments over the last 22 months, the Vikings made the move to have Asher Allen shadow the speedy and physical Steve Smith.

"It doesn't necessarily make you the top corner. It's just the coaches felt like it was the best thing for us to do," Allen said. "Me and Ced and Antoine and everybody on the team, that's what we're always prepared to do, whether that be inside or outside, every week there's a different challenge. That was my challenge this week so I just had to go out there and play."

Smith still racked up 100 yards on seven catches, but he had been averaging 116 yards per game and the Vikings were coming in shorthanded at cornerback. Having one cornerback shadow a specific receiver goes against the Vikings' typical protocol.

"That's not a custom of ours to mirror a receiver, but for where we are with our personnel in the secondary, we just felt like that gave us the best chance to be successful on Sunday. We just didn't feel good about trying to do it any other way," Frazier said. "So we did something that we wouldn't ordinarily do, and I think it paid dividends for us. Steve caught a couple of big plays, one for a touchdown and one long pass through the course of the game, but not the numbers that we've seen on some of the other teams that he's played against this season. So you have to applaud Asher for battling and hanging in there with him and all of the guys in the secondary that have battled, Marcus Sherels as well. But it's something that we thought we needed to do to give ourselves a chance to contain a high-powered offense."

That might further speak to the coaching staff's concerns about Griffin's explosiveness on his path back from two knee surgeries.

The Vikings allowed 290 yards passing Cam Newton, but given the situation with two of their top three cornerbacks out and Griffin still working his way back, it will be interesting to see who the starters are when Winfield returns – he says he will "100 percent" play in Green Bay.

"We'll talk about everything. We'll try to evaluate everything that we're doing, peel back the onion and take a real hard look at our team in every phase," Frazier said about possibly mixing up the cornerback rotation upon Winfield's return.

The Vikings may not even have one of their best cornerbacks on the roster by the time the team resumes play in two weeks. Team officials will also be discussing the future of suspended cornerback Chris Cook this week.

"We're actually going to sit down and discuss that this afternoon, see what direction we're going to be heading," Frazier said Monday. "A lot of it has to do with what the league says and so on, but we've got a lot of things to talk about."

Cook was charged last Tuesday with felony domestic assault by strangulation, which carries a penalty of up to three years in prison and a $5,000 fine.

Asked if there is a chance Cook could be released, Frazier said, "We've got a lot of things to talk about, a lot of things to talk about as we go forward."

While Frazier said the safety rotation between Jamarca Sanford and Tyrell Johnson opposite Husain Abdullah is likely to remain in place after the bye, he also indicated rookie Mistral Raymond could see some playing time, as well.

"We have talked about (using) Mistral. He's done a good job on special teams the weeks that he's been up. He did a good job (Sunday)," Frazier said. "We're going to discuss whether or not we want to work him in on defense or not."

In other words, when it comes to the secondary after the bye week, very little is written in pen. With a week to review individual performances in-depth, tweaks, alteration or outright changes are all a possibility.


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



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\r\n\r\n","mobileBody":"The Vikings secondary comes down to this: A veteran cornerback with a pain in his neck, another veteran struggling on two bad knees, a rookie who is suspended and might not make it on the roster through Thanksgiving and a safety position that has been rotating players and could have a rookie join the rotation. As the Vikings' coaching staff considers its options for the second half of the 2011 season, they enter their bye week with a 2-6 record. While players will have Tuesday through Sunday off, coaches will be doing a self-scout and discussing potential changes for the coming months. Some of those changes could be implemented in a secondary in flux. Antoine Winfield, the 13-year veteran who has missed the last four games with a ligament strain in his neck, said Monday he will return to action on time to face Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers when Minnesota resumes play on Nov. 14. \"He's very close (to returning),\" Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said of Winfield. \"He went through some contact drills at the end of the week. Felt a little bit, wasn't quite confident to go out there and go full contact. All indications are we should get him back for our next ballgame.\" The return of Winfield could cause some other changes at cornerback. With Cedric Griffin struggling after having surgery to repair each of his anterior cruciate ligaments over the last 22 months, the Vikings made the move to have Asher Allen shadow the speedy and physical Steve Smith. \"It doesn't necessarily make you the top corner. It's just the coaches felt like it was the best thing for us to do,\" Allen said. \"Me and Ced and Antoine and everybody on the team, that's what we're always prepared to do, whether that be inside or outside, every week there's a different challenge. That was my challenge this week so I just had to go out there and play.\" Smith still racked up 100 yards on seven catches, but he had been averaging 116 yards per game and the Vikings were coming in shorthanded at cornerback. Having one cornerback shadow a specific receiver goes against the Vikings' typical protocol. \"That's not a custom of ours to mirror a receiver, but for where we are with our personnel in the secondary, we just felt like that gave us the best chance to be successful on Sunday. We just didn't feel good about trying to do it any other way,\" Frazier said. \"So we did something that we wouldn't ordinarily do, and I think it paid dividends for us. Steve caught a couple of big plays, one for a touchdown and one long pass through the course of the game, but not the numbers that we've seen on some of the other teams that he's played against this season. So you have to applaud Asher for battling and hanging in there with him and all of the guys in the secondary that have battled, Marcus Sherels as well. But it's something that we thought we needed to do to give ourselves a chance to contain a high-powered offense.\" That might further speak to the coaching staff's concerns about Griffin's explosiveness on his path back from two knee surgeries. The Vikings allowed 290 yards passing Cam Newton, but given the situation with two of their top three cornerbacks out and Griffin still working his way back, it will be interesting to see who the starters are when Winfield returns – he says he will \"100 percent\" play in Green Bay. \"We'll talk about everything. We'll try to evaluate everything that we're doing, peel back the onion and take a real hard look at our team in every phase,\" Frazier said about possibly mixing up the cornerback rotation upon Winfield's return. The Vikings may not even have one of their best cornerbacks on the roster by the time the team resumes play in two weeks. Team officials will also be discussing the future of suspended cornerback Chris Cook this week. \"We're actually going to sit down and discuss that this afternoon, see what direction we're going to be heading,\" Frazier said Monday. \"A lot of it has to do with what the league says and so on, but we've got a lot of things to talk about.\" Cook was charged last Tuesday with felony domestic assault by strangulation, which carries a penalty of up to three years in prison and a $5,000 fine. Asked if there is a chance Cook could be released, Frazier said, \"We've got a lot of things to talk about, a lot of things to talk about as we go forward.\" While Frazier said the safety rotation between Jamarca Sanford and Tyrell Johnson opposite Husain Abdullah is likely to remain in place after the bye, he also indicated rookie Mistral Raymond could see some playing time, as well. \"We have talked about (using) Mistral. He's done a good job on special teams the weeks that he's been up. He did a good job (Sunday),\" Frazier said. \"We're going to discuss whether or not we want to work him in on defense or not.\" In other words, when it comes to the secondary after the bye week, very little is written in pen. With a week to review individual performances in-depth, tweaks, alteration or outright changes are all a possibility. 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