Techniques can change vs. tall receivers

The Vikings have faced a tall receiving corps before, as they will in Chicago, but some cornerbacks change the technique to combat them.

On Sunday, the Chicago Bears receivers are going to be able to create matchup problems for the Vikings cornerbacks. Brandon Marshall measures 6-foot-4, Alshon Jeffery at 6-foot3, and tight end Martellus Bennett at 6-foot-6.

Compare those heights to the Minnesota Vikings cornerbacks who, for the most part, do not break six feet. The Vikings’ tallest cornerback is Xavier Rhodes, who measures in at 6-foot-1. After that, there is Josh Robinson at 5-foot-10 and Captain Munnerlyn at 5-foot-9.

Munnerlyn knows that he will have to work harder going up against the Bears’ tall receivers, but he has had to do that this season already. When the Vikings traveled south to take on Tampa Bay, they had to go up against tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins (6-foot-5), Vincent Jackson (6-foot-5) and Mike Evans (6-foot-5).

“They similar, they’re similar a lot,” Munnerlyn said when comparing Tampa Bay’s and Chicago’s receivers. “Both teams have big tall receivers with great hands, great speed, and they can go up and get the ball. We’re just going to go out there and try to compete with them.”

The fact that the Vikings defense was able to have success against a Tampa Bay team with similar size to the Bears has to give Minnesota confidence.

In that Week 8 matchup, Evans had four receptions for 78 yards, Jackson had one reception for 13 yards, and Seferian-Jenkins had three catches for 26 yards and a touchdown – all in all a relatively successful outing against such tall receivers.

The reason they were able to be successful is that they stuck to the technique, they say, and it will be the same techniques that they will be using in Sunday’s game at Soldier Field.

“The biggest thing is understanding the leverage and the technique that we’re trying to get accomplished through the call in certain situations,” said Vikings defensive coordinator George Edwards. “I think that once they understand that and what the offense is trying to do to them, we can kind of use that to kind of help them from situation to situation. … If we play the technique, get our eyes where they need to be, do our footwork properly, we should be in pretty good shape for what we’re asking them to do schematically.”

The player who would be most affected by the height of the opposing receivers would more than likely be Munnerlyn because he is the shortest of the starting cornerbacks on the Vikings roster.

He understands that, when playing against such tall receivers, cornerbacks have to change technique a little bit, mainly because he is not going to be able to out-jump any of the Bears receivers.

“Oh, yeah, it’s definitely different technique,” Munnerlyn said. “You have to try and knock the ball out of their hands on their way down, but at the same time I can’t worry about those guys when they jump, I’m sure I can’t out-jump them, but I just got to worry about them not catching the ball.

“I got to play underneath those guys. They can box me out like basketball, and when the ball’s in the air I just got to make sure they don’t come down with it.”

In the end, Munnerlyn is not worried about the tall receivers that he has to face in the NFL. In fact, he might actually prefer facing them instead of a smaller quick-twitch type of receiver.

“We’re going against some tall receivers, but at the same time I like taller receivers,” he said. “I know they can’t run by me that much.”

Head coach Mike Zimmer concurred.

“You’ve got to be careful with these guys because they’re so big and physical,” Zimmer said. “They’ll throw the ball up to them and they’ll go up and get it. We’re not going to out-jump them. They’re good, big athletes. When the ball does get up, we’ve got to be great in pulling their hands apart. We’ve got to be great with putting our hands in the hole, what I call it, and then being in the right position, too. That helps. If you’re in the wrong position and you’re fighting to get to it and he goes and you’re half a step late, then they’ll make the catch most all of the time.”

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