Scouting the Vikings schedule: Cornerbacks

The Vikings will face one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL next season, and several that aren’t too far behind. We analyze the top cornerbacks on the Vikings’ schedule next year, looking at what they did in 2014.

Chicago Bears: Home and Away
Kyle Fuller
In his rookie season Fuller showed a lot of promise that he has what it takes to be a good cornerback in the NFL, but he also showed that he still has a lot to work on. During the season he recorded 64 tackles, three forced fumbles, four interceptions and 10 passes defended. According to Pro Football Focus, the receivers that he was responsible for were targeted 101 times throughout the season, and were able to come down with 64 receptions. Fuller was also responsible for allowing five touchdowns throughout the course of the season. After a strong start to the season, Fuller did not finish well and ended the season with a -18.4 rating. The poor finish could have been due to offenses figuring him out, the long season tiring him out or injuries finally catching up to him – he played part of the year with a broken hand.

Detroit Lions: Home and Away
Rashean Mathis
After 12 seasons in the NFL, Mathis showed that he still has the ability to play at a high level. During the regular season he recorded 51 tackles, one forced fumble, one interception – which was returned for a touchdown – and nine passes defended. The receivers that Mathis was responsible for were targeted 89 times, and came down with the completion 54 times for 555 yards and three touchdowns. All of these stats led to Mathis receiving a 9.1 overall rating during the regular season. He is a free agent this offseason, and at 34 years old he is in the twilight of his career, but some team will take a chance on him. Whether that is the Lions or someone else is yet to be seen.

Green Bay Packers: Home and Away
Casey Hayward
In his third NFL season out of Vanderbilt, Hayward was used on a limited basis. He played in 15 of the Packers’ 16 games during the 2014 regular season, but only received 435 snaps. Even though his playing time was limited he was still able to make an impact, and finished the season as the highest-rated cornerback in the NFC North. PFF gave Hayward an 11.0 rating after he recorded 43 tackles, two fumble recoveries, three interceptions – one returned for a touchdown – and seven passes defended. This offseason the Packers have three cornerbacks that are free agents, so after a strong 2014 season Hayward could see his role in the defense increase next year.

Seattle Seahawks: Home
Richard Sherman
Many people around the NFL consider Sherman to be the best cornerback in the NFL, and it is often shown as opposing quarterbacks rarely throw to his half of the field. At the end of the season PFF gave him an 18.2 overall rating, making him the third-highest rated cornerback in the NFL. During the 2014 regular season he recorded 57 tackles, one forced fumble, a team-high four interceptions and eight passes defended. The receivers that he was responsible for were targeted 65 times and came down with 31 receptions for 422 yards and one touchdown. At the age of 26, Sherman will remain a threat on defense for years to come.

Arizona Cardinals: Away
Patrick Peterson
Last offseason Peterson signed a big contract worth up to $70 million, and in 2014 he fell short of living up to it. During the season he recorded 50 tackles, one sack, three interceptions – one returned for a touchdown – and seven passes defended. The receivers that he was responsible for were targeted 95 times and they came down with 54 receptions for 743 yards and eight touchdowns. If you are the Cardinals, those aren’t not the type of numbers you want to be seeing when you are paying someone to be the No. 1 cornerback on your team. At the end of the season, Peterson was rated -3.6, which made him the third-lowest ranked cornerback on the Cardinals team.

St. Louis Rams: Home
E.J. Gaines
In his rookie season out of Missouri, Gains became the best cornerback that the Rams had on their roster. He recorded 70 tackles, one fumble recovery, two interceptions, and 15 passes defended. Also the receivers that he was responsible for were targeted 85 times and came down with 57 catches for 550 yards and one touchdown. Because of those stats, PFF gave him a 3.3 rating at the end of the regular season. Gains is only 22 years old and should only continue to improve as he gains more experience in game-time situations.

San Francisco 49ers: Away
Chris Culliver
2014 was Culliver’s fourth season in the NFL after the 49ers selected him out of South Carolina in the third round of the 2011 draft. He was one of two players that made up a very good cornerback tandem in San Francisco – the other being Perrish Cox. Last season Culliver recorded 45 tackles, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery – which was returned for a touchdown – four interceptions and 15 passes defended. The receivers that Culliver was responsible for were targeted 73 times and came down with 37 of them for 468 yards and four touchdowns, which led to him getting an 8.5 rating from PFF. This offseason, both Culliver and Cox are free agents and it is likely that only one will be back in San Francisco, as both of them are young and talented cornerbacks that should fetch a high price.

Kansas City Chiefs: Home
Sean Smith
Smith was really the only bright spot among the Chiefs cornerbacks in 2014, as he had a very good season. He recorded 50 tackles, one interception and a team-high 18 passes defended. He also did well in pass coverage as the receivers that he was responsible for were targeted 86 times and came down with 49 receptions for 597 yards and three touchdowns. At the end of the season PFF gave Smith a rating of 17.0, which made him the No. 5 cornerback in the NFL. Not only was Smith productive last season, but he managed to do so while totaling 1,062 snaps and only being off the field for 24 snaps.

Denver Broncos: Away
Chris Harris Jr.
Harris finished his third season in the NFL and is quickly become one of the league’s better cornerbacks. In the 2014 regular season he recorded 54 tackles, one sack, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery, three interceptions and a team-high 18 passes defended. The receivers that he was responsible for covering were targeted 89 times and recorded 46 receptions for 356 yards and zero touchdowns. That type of year was the reason why PFF gave him a 28.4 overall rating, making him the highest-rated cornerback in the NFL. At the age of 25, Harris is just entering into the prime of his career and should continue to be a defensive threat for years to come.

San Diego Chargers: Home
Brandon Flowers
At the beginning of the season Flowers appeared to be well on his way to having a career year, but everything changed around Week 6. Flowers’ performance dipped a little bit to more what you would expect from an average cornerback, and by Week 14 he really started to struggle. During the course of the season Flowers recorded 52 tackles, a team-high three interceptions, and 10 passes defended. The receivers that he was responsible for were targeted 75 times and recorded 42 receptions for 618 yards and four touchdowns, and at the end of the season PFF gave Flowers an 8. 2 overall rating. Flowers is a free agent and will draw interest from teams who are looking for a solid veteran cornerback who is still able to play at a high level.

Oakland Raiders: Away
T.J. Carrie
Carrie finished up his rookie season after the Raiders drafted him out of Ohio University in the seventh round. Seventh-round picks don’t often get ample playing time as rookies, but that is what happened to Carrie. He was primarily used as a rotational player or in nickel and dime formations, but he also got the opportunity to start a couple games. Throughout the season Carrie was a very even-keeled performer – he did not make many mistakes but he also did not make a lot of splashy plays – and it was shown with the 0.0 rating he was given by PFF. He recorded 44 tackles, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery, one interception and eight passes defended.

New York Giants: Home
Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie
Last year was Rodgers-Cromartie’s first season with the Giants after signing with them as a free agent in the offseason. Throughout his career he has been known as a talented and speedy cornerback and was able to use those abilities to help make an impact in the Giants’ secondary. He recorded 38 tackles, two interceptions and a team-high 12 passes defended. The receivers he was responsible for covering were targeted 74 times and they recorded 42 receptions for 492 yards and five touchdowns. At the end of the regular season PFF gave Rodgers-Cromartie a 7.8 rating, making him the highest-rated corner on the Giants. At the age of 28, Rodgers-Cromartie should still have a few more years before his play starts to diminish.

Atlanta Falcons: Away
Desmond Trufant
The Falcons defense didn’t have very many bright spots during the course of the 2014 season, but Trufant was one of them. PFF gave him a 13.5 rating, making him the sixth-highest rated cornerback in the NFL, and the second-rated cornerback in the NFC – behind Sherman. He recorded 61 tackles, one fumble recovery, three interceptions and a team-high 16 passes defended. The receivers that he was responsible for were targeted 92 times and recorded 54 receptions for 649 yards and two touchdowns. Trufant was just in his second year during the 2014 season, so he is still learning to play at the professional level and should continue to get better as he gets more playing time.


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