Vikings secondary will have new look

A.J. Jefferson is likely to get extended playing time after the loss of Chris Cook, and Mistral Raymond should be available for the first time in six weeks. Jefferson, Antoine Winfield and Leslie Frazier talked about the changes to the secondary.

The injury to one defensive back and the return of another will be changing the look of the Vikings' secondary Sunday.

CB Chris Cook had surgery to repair his broken right arm and the timetable for his return remains the same – about six to eight weeks, head coach Leslie Frazier said.

That means Cook might not see the field again this year unless the Vikings make the playoffs. In his absence, rookie Josh Robinson is expected to start and A.J. Jefferson is expected to get extended playing time in the nickel defense.

The Vikings now have the 12th-ranked pass defense in the league.

Jefferson said his understanding is that the coaches will rotate cornerbacks in practice this week, and Frazier said a decision on the game-day rotation would be made later this week.

"Me and Chris, we emulate each other. I'm more of a physical guy. I want to be at the line anyway," Jefferson said. "I'm bigger than a lot of the other corners that are here, so I'd much rather get my hands on them, so that's why they have me at his backup. I'm kind of similar to him."

Cook was the biggest cornerback on the Vikings' roster at 6-foot-2 and 212 pounds. Jefferson, at 6-foot-1, is the next tallest, but he's giving up about 20 pounds to Cook's listed weight of 212 pounds.

"They're different players, different style. I think A.J. is more of an at-the-line guy, loves to play in the press," said the remaining starting cornerback, Antoine Winfield. "They both have size, speed. (Jefferson) has experience. He played in Arizona and started out there a couple games so he has experience. That helps."

The Vikings acquired Jefferson from the Cardinals in a trade before the season started. After being inactive for the first game while learning a new defense, he has played the last seven weeks.

Jefferson said he has adjusted to what the Vikings' coaches are asking, but he admitted it's a different style defense than the one on which he cut his NFL teeth in Arizona.

"It's a complete turnaround. Everybody knows we're a Cover-2 team (in Minnesota). It's a lot more of that stuff going here versus Arizona, where we played a lot more man. It's still football for me. I've been doing it a long time and it's never going to change."

The Vikings aren't likely to change what they ask of their defense, either. Robison, who has played in all eight games and started two, is a bit of a shorter cornerback at 5-foot-10 but his 199-pound weight also allows him to still be physical.

Still, the loss of Cook could change what the Vikings get out of the starter opposite Winfield.

"Chris was really coming along. He was playing good football for us, but in this business we all know injuries occur. I think our depth is better than it has been in years past. I think we'll be able to hold up better than we have in the past," Frazier said.

In nickel defense, Winfield will still be expected to slide inside and take the slot receiver most of time while Jefferson is likely to be called upon to cover one of the outside receivers. He will feel right at home if the Vikings ask him to get physical with that receiver.

"That was always my M.O. It was, ‘A.J. go down and press.' That's all they wanted me to do (in Arizona)," Jefferson said. "If you take somebody out of the play, it just makes it easier on everybody else."

While Cook's injury will be a loss for the secondary, they could get a former starter back. Safety Mistral Raymond is testing the right ankle he partially dislocated in the San Francisco game Sept. 23 and could be available Sunday.

"It looks that way. We need to get him through an entire week of practice. We're going to give him a little bit more this week and we'll make a decision later in the week," Frazier said. "All indications are he's improved enough where he can through everything in practice, but he still hasn't done that (in a full practice)."

Eventually, Raymond, who started the first three games of the season, is expected to get back in the starting lineup in place of Jamarca Sanford, but that might not happen right away Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks.

"We need to see how he responds to some of the things that we're doing. We've got a few changes from what we were doing early in the season when he was starting, but he shouldn't have a problem picking up some of those nuances, but we also have to see how he does physically as well – how he plants, how he cuts and how he responds the day after one of those practices," Frazier said.

The Vikings survived the loss of Raymond for the last five games and got adequate play from Sanford. Now the secondary's depth will be tested in other ways with the loss of Cook.

Last year showed just how much injuries can affect the effective of a defensive backfield, but after adding Robinson and safeties Harrison Smith and Robert Blanton in the draft, as well as Jefferson in a trade, they are feeling better about their prospects to handle injury.

"I have a lot of confidence," Winfield said of the depth in the defensive backfield. "I think the coaches did a great job during training camp and in the preseason getting guys some experience. It's always tough when you lose a starter, but the young guys will get out there and make the most out of their opportunity."


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\r\n","mobileBody":"The injury to one defensive back and the return of another will be changing the look of the Vikings' secondary Sunday. CB Chris Cook had surgery to repair his broken right arm and the timetable for his return remains the same – about six to eight weeks, head coach Leslie Frazier said. That means Cook might not see the field again this year unless the Vikings make the playoffs. In his absence, rookie Josh Robinson is expected to start and A.J. Jefferson is expected to get extended playing time in the nickel defense. The Vikings now have the 12th-ranked pass defense in the league. Jefferson said his understanding is that the coaches will rotate cornerbacks in practice this week, and Frazier said a decision on the game-day rotation would be made later this week. \"Me and Chris, we emulate each other. I'm more of a physical guy. I want to be at the line anyway,\" Jefferson said. \"I'm bigger than a lot of the other corners that are here, so I'd much rather get my hands on them, so that's why they have me at his backup. I'm kind of similar to him.\" Cook was the biggest cornerback on the Vikings' roster at 6-foot-2 and 212 pounds. Jefferson, at 6-foot-1, is the next tallest, but he's giving up about 20 pounds to Cook's listed weight of 212 pounds. \"They're different players, different style. I think A.J. is more of an at-the-line guy, loves to play in the press,\" said the remaining starting cornerback, Antoine Winfield. \"They both have size, speed. (Jefferson) has experience. He played in Arizona and started out there a couple games so he has experience. That helps.\" The Vikings acquired Jefferson from the Cardinals in a trade before the season started. After being inactive for the first game while learning a new defense, he has played the last seven weeks. Jefferson said he has adjusted to what the Vikings' coaches are asking, but he admitted it's a different style defense than the one on which he cut his NFL teeth in Arizona. \"It's a complete turnaround. Everybody knows we're a Cover-2 team (in Minnesota). It's a lot more of that stuff going here versus Arizona, where we played a lot more man. It's still football for me. I've been doing it a long time and it's never going to change.\" The Vikings aren't likely to change what they ask of their defense, either. Robison, who has played in all eight games and started two, is a bit of a shorter cornerback at 5-foot-10 but his 199-pound weight also allows him to still be physical. Still, the loss of Cook could change what the Vikings get out of the starter opposite Winfield. \"Chris was really coming along. He was playing good football for us, but in this business we all know injuries occur. I think our depth is better than it has been in years past. I think we'll be able to hold up better than we have in the past,\" Frazier said. In nickel defense, Winfield will still be expected to slide inside and take the slot receiver most of time while Jefferson is likely to be called upon to cover one of the outside receivers. He will feel right at home if the Vikings ask him to get physical with that receiver. \"That was always my M.O. It was, ‘A.J. go down and press.' That's all they wanted me to do (in Arizona),\" Jefferson said. \"If you take somebody out of the play, it just makes it easier on everybody else.\" While Cook's injury will be a loss for the secondary, they could get a former starter back. Safety Mistral Raymond is testing the right ankle he partially dislocated in the San Francisco game Sept. 23 and could be available Sunday. \"It looks that way. We need to get him through an entire week of practice. We're going to give him a little bit more this week and we'll make a decision later in the week,\" Frazier said. \"All indications are he's improved enough where he can through everything in practice, but he still hasn't done that (in a full practice).\" Eventually, Raymond, who started the first three games of the season, is expected to get back in the starting lineup in place of Jamarca Sanford, but that might not happen right away Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks. \"We need to see how he responds to some of the things that we're doing. We've got a few changes from what we were doing early in the season when he was starting, but he shouldn't have a problem picking up some of those nuances, but we also have to see how he does physically as well – how he plants, how he cuts and how he responds the day after one of those practices,\" Frazier said. The Vikings survived the loss of Raymond for the last five games and got adequate play from Sanford. 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