Derek Cox is putting himself in the mix for a final roster spot in the middle of a cornerback position full of questions and possibilities.
Cox has been working mostly with the second- and third-team defenses, but he showed well with two interceptions last week during full-team work. One of them came in the two-minute drill last Thursday when Teddy Bridgewater threw his first two interceptions of training camp.
“The offense is trying to move the ball up the field, get a score and put points on the board,” Cox said. “My guy, he just ran a slant route and I had good technique, was inside and I made the play.”
Cox is trying to get used to the Minnesota Vikings’ defensive system and find a roster spot on his third team in as many seasons. His first four years in the league were spent with the Jacksonville Jaguars after being their third-round selection in 2009. He quickly acclimated there, intercepting a Peyton Manning pass on Crocker’s first NFL series.
He started all 16 games as a rookie and 47 over his four seasons in Jacksonville. He said the defensive system under Mike Zimmer is most similar to what he enjoyed with the Jaguars.
“I wouldn’t say it’s been difficult. As players, you just have to dive in and pick up the scheme as quickly as possible. Hopefully there is carryover from one team to the next and you get it on the fly and hit the ground running,” Cox said.
“I would say that here point-blank, from my career I’ve been able to make plays. In any secondary I can make plays. It’s just all about learning the scheme, learning the techniques and executing them properly.”
After four relatively successful seasons with the Jaguars, Cox’s tenure with the San Diego Chargers didn’t go nearly as well. He signed a four-year, $20 million contract with them in free agency in 2013 that reportedly included a $5.2 million signing bonus and $10.25 million in guaranteed money. A year later, the Chargers cut him to save $1.65 million on their salary cap.
“I don’t think anything went wrong. It just wasn’t a good fit,” he said. “This is a better fit, so I’m happy to be here.”
Despite the similarities he sees between Jacksonville’s defense and the one Zimmer is implementing in Minnesota, there is improvement to be made.
“He’s doing a good job. He’s still got a lot of technique to work on, but he’s a smart guy and a tough guy,” Zimmer said. “All of these preseason games will be big for him and really for all of these corners.”
The Vikings’ top three cornerbacks are Xavier Rhodes, Captain Munnerlyn and presumably Josh Robinson, who has missed time with a hamstring injury of late. Seventh-round pick Jabari Price has also shown well and veteran Marcus Sherels has become steadier every year for the Vikings, so the Vikings have plenty of options even if they don’t have their starting unit completely defined before their first preseason game.
Cox says he is comfortable with the system, but time in the system will be the key for him.
“For any player, the main focus is the playbook,” he said. “Focus on the playbook because when you know that it doesn’t take any skill, it doesn’t take any talent to master those type of things, so have that down pat so when you go on the field you can play fast.”
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
CB Cox making plays, getting up to speed
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