Countdown to camp: New CBs on the block

The Vikings will have a new look in their secondary mainly because of the cornerback options. They don't have a lot of experience, but they appear to be building depth.

The Vikings' safeties appear to be set, but the same can't be said for the cornerbacks, who still have a lot of questions behind the well-known names.

The numbers: Last year—6. Current count—10. Projection this year—6.

The candidates: Brandon Burton, Chris Cook, Bobby Felder, A.J. Jefferson, Jacob Lacey, Greg McCoy, Xavier Rhodes, Josh Robinson, Marcus Sherels, Roderick Williams.

The locks: Cook, Rhodes, Robinson, Jefferson.

The sleepers: Don't count out either Williams or McCoy. Neither have any experience on the 53-man roster of an NFL team, but McCoy spent time on Arizona's practice squad last year and Williams was in the CFL.

The longshot: In reality, there are no true longshots with this mix of players, but it will be difficult for Burton to hang onto the roster spot he occupied last year with the new competition in town.

The analysis: Last year's season-ending roster consisted of six cornerbacks. The numbers might be the same this year, but the names will see some newcomers. Antoine Winfield is gone and Rhodes is likely his replacement. Cook will try to prove he can stay healthy and be a full-time factor at right cornerback, and Jefferson and Robinson will provide competition for Rhodes and at the nickel back position. That's four of six cornerback spots commandeered, and Lacey is likely to be a fifth option if he returns from thumb surgery in June without issue. Marcus Sherels will have to be the top punt returner to hang onto his paycheck, and he will be challenged for a final cornerback spot by Burton, Felder, McCoy and Williams. Preseason will be proving time for all of those legitimate candidates.

Chris Cook: Although he enters his fourth season in the league, Cook knows he still has to prove a few things. Chief among them is being able to stay on the field for a full season. Injuries have been a big part of his initial NFL story and he needs to wipe that chapter clean if he wants to earn a big contract after this season.

Xavier Rhodes: He looked sharp for most of the organized team activities and minicamp, but will he excel as expected when the pads go on and the games get real? He appears to be a great match for the style of play the Vikings want.

Josh Robinson: Robinson is expected to challenge Rhodes for the starting spot on the left side, but Rhodes (6-1) has the distinct size advantage. Robinson (5-10) could well end up as the nickel cornerback if he loses the battle for left cornerback.

A.J. Jefferson: Jefferson is a solid option for depth, especially on the outside, where his size (6-1) helps. He started seven games in 2012 and played in 51 percent of the snaps, showing how much the Vikings are in the nickel defense.

Jacob Lacey: If Lacey's surgically repaired thumb is ready to go at the start of the preseason, he should be a legitimate challenger for the nickel cornerback spot. He started 10 games for Indianapolis in 2011 and nine for Detroit last year.

Marcus Sherels: Sherels isn't expected to be a big part of the defense, but he is the most reliable punt returner on the roster and special teams coordinator Mike Priefer is comforted by having Sherel's sure hands on the field. If he makes the 53-man roster, it's because of special teams more than defense.

Bobby Felder: He spent all of last year on the practice squad and is as strong a candidate as any of the last four listed here to make the move up to the 53-man roster this year. If the arrow continues to point up, he will get a chance at some point.

Brandon Burton: He was on the roster last year but hardly contributed. That's not a good sign with the additions of Rhodes, Lacey, McCoy and Williams this year. He will have to produce a very strong preseason to keep his roster spot.

Greg McCoy: The seventh-round draft choice of the Chicago Bears last year ended up spending the majority of the 2012 season on the Arizona Cardinals practice squad. He has to take advantage of the limited opportunities during preseason.

Roderick Williams: Will the Vikings' CFL connections continue? Williams spent three seasons with the Edmonton Eskimos. He didn't look out of place in OTAs and minicamp, but his real tests will begin when facing other NFL receivers in August. He's likely a practice squad candidate.

The projection: Cook, Rhodes, Robinson, Jefferson, Lacey, Sherels.


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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