Winfield's snaps return to normal

A week after getting rookie Josh Robinson more involved, Antoine Winfield was making a big impact against the run-heavy Washington Redskins offense. So what determines when the Vikings can give Winfield a break? He and his defensive coordinator talked about it.

Almost two weeks ago, against the Tennessee Titans, the Vikings gave rookie cornerback Josh Robinson the start over 14-year veteran Antoine Winfield and gave him more snaps. It appears the short-lived respite for Winfield is over.

In short, it was a situational plan that depends largely on the opponent – both in strength of the opponent and their offensive size and tendencies.

"I thought since we were playing Tennessee they would give him a few more reps," Winfield said.

As it turned out, Winfield actually got more snaps on defense than Robinson in the Titans game, 62 compared to 59, but it was the highest percentage of snaps that Robinson had all season, as he played in 83 percent of the defensive downs. The previous week, Robinson got the same number of snaps, 59, but only because the Detroit Lions played more three-receiver sets while Winfield took every snap in the base and nickel defense.

"It just has to do with the game plan, how many nickel reps that a team may have versus base reps, what we're doing that week, so it had nothing to do with whether it be good play, bad play, indifferent, just the game plan," defensive coordinator Alan Williams said of the rotation. "(Robinson) is coming along fine. He's still tackling well. Each week I think he's feeling more comfortable with the game plan and the adjustments that we're making and he's making good progress."

While the two-game stretch of Detroit and Tennessee offered the rookie his most extensive action – taking 76 percent of the snaps against the Lions and 83 percent against the Titans – his playing time was more than cut in half against the Washington Redskins, who employed a lot of two-tight end sets and ran the ball more.

While Winfield and Robinson are both small cornerbacks – Winfield is 5-foot-9, 180 pounds and Robinson is 5-foot-10, 199 pounds – there is an irony on how they are used. When opposing teams go bigger, Williams pointed out, the Vikings go with Winfield.

"Antoine plays when they bring big people in. You would think because he's a smaller guy when you bring big people in, he would go out, but he's fantastic in the run fits, he has a feel for the run game, so it does, it just depends on what personnel they have and how we want to match it up," Williams said.

Ever since the idea of reducing Winfield's snaps was brought up this offseason, the 35-year-old has been open to the idea.

"They wanted to get (Robinson) a couple more reps and see what he could do over there. I'm cool with that," Winfield said. "It's year 14. I've played a lot of football."

Still, it isn't easy replacing Winfield's experience and acumen.

He is the team's second-leading tackler with 50, behind linebacker Chad Greenway with 72, and leads the team with seven tackles-for-loss and two interceptions. He is also second on the team with seven passes defensed.

He may be getting old by NFL standards, but he is still playing at a high level that is impressing his defensive coordinator.

"Wow! Capital W, capital O, capital W. Wow!" Williams said when asked about Winfield's level of play. "It has a huge impact. That's as good as I've seen anyone play in a long, long time. I think it's good because he's an elder that comes out to practice, the way he prepares, the way that he practices, the way he goes about his business, you look at him and you say, ‘You know what, that's what a professional looks like. That's how a professional prepares and these are the results of the way a guy prepares.' I think it has an impact, not just on the young guys, but the older guys, too."


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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The previous week, Robinson got the same number of snaps, 59, but only because the Detroit Lions played more three-receiver sets while Winfield took every snap in the base and nickel defense. \"It just has to do with the game plan, how many nickel reps that a team may have versus base reps, what we're doing that week, so it had nothing to do with whether it be good play, bad play, indifferent, just the game plan,\" defensive coordinator Alan Williams said of the rotation. \"(Robinson) is coming along fine. He's still tackling well. Each week I think he's feeling more comfortable with the game plan and the adjustments that we're making and he's making good progress.\" While the two-game stretch of Detroit and Tennessee offered the rookie his most extensive action – taking 76 percent of the snaps against the Lions and 83 percent against the Titans – his playing time was more than cut in half against the Washington Redskins, who employed a lot of two-tight end sets and ran the ball more. While Winfield and Robinson are both small cornerbacks – Winfield is 5-foot-9, 180 pounds and Robinson is 5-foot-10, 199 pounds – there is an irony on how they are used. When opposing teams go bigger, Williams pointed out, the Vikings go with Winfield. \"Antoine plays when they bring big people in. You would think because he's a smaller guy when you bring big people in, he would go out, but he's fantastic in the run fits, he has a feel for the run game, so it does, it just depends on what personnel they have and how we want to match it up,\" Williams said. Ever since the idea of reducing Winfield's snaps was brought up this offseason, the 35-year-old has been open to the idea. \"They wanted to get (Robinson) a couple more reps and see what he could do over there. I'm cool with that,\" Winfield said. \"It's year 14. I've played a lot of football.\" Still, it isn't easy replacing Winfield's experience and acumen. 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