Captain Munnerlyn was brought in last offseason to be used as a slot corner. And although he was used that way in nickel formations, he was the starting corner opposite Rhodes in the Vikings’ base defense. That was not head coach Mike Zimmer’s original intent, but Munnerlyn beat out Josh Robinson in training camp and earned the position.
Robinson still got playing time, though. Whenever the Vikings were in a nickel or dime formation, Robinson was the outside cornerback opposite Rhodes. Even though he made great strides improving his game from 2013, he still struggled from time to time in 2014, most specifically against bigger receivers.
The Vikings are clearly looking for another cornerback to start opposite Rhodes, and this offseason they brought in Terence Newman as a possible short-term solution. Newman was 36 years old during the 2014 season, so he has lost a step, but there were also a lot of positives in his game.
Let’s see what the all-22 film from last year has to show.
Play No. 1In this first play, Newman is lined up at the top of the screen against tight end Julius Thomas, a receiver who is plenty bigger than Newman, but the veteran cornerback was still able to break up the pass intended for him.
Newman jammed Thomas when he reached the top of his route and prevented him from breaking inside, thus disrupting the timing of the route. Peyton Manning then tried feed the ball into Thomas, but Newman was able to break up the pass – along with the help of another Vikings free-agent acquisition, Taylor Mays.
This play shows the type of veteran experience that Newman possesses. He was able to disrupt Thomas’ route without drawing any sort of penalty. This is something that he would be able to help Rhodes out with. Rhodes is a big corner that likes to play physically, but that physical play led to multiple penalties being called on him.
Play No. 2Newman also is not afraid to step up and get his hands dirty in the run game. In this next play, he is at the top of the screen and the receiver he was covering motions to the other side of the formation. Instead of following him Newman stayed on the end of the defensive line.
This then allowed Newman to run the ball carrier down from behind and stop the play for just a couple yards. This was important because the Broncos line appeared to get a good push off the snap, and the play likely could have gone for much more, possibly a touchdown. But since Newman was able to get in behind the line he was able to take down the running back on his own.
Play No. 3In this next play, Newman is at the bottom of the screen and the Pittsburgh Steelers try to set up a screen play to the receiver he is covering. Newman is able to get around the blocking and, along with a teammate, make the stop.
This is always an important skill for cornerbacks to have, to get around blocking receivers and break up the screen. Vikings fans have seen screens go for big games on multiple occasions. Think Jarius Wright in overtime against the New York Jets.
So having a cornerback who can disrupt them before they get going is always an important thing for a team to have.
Play No. 4Then there is Newman’s ability to still jump a route and get an interception. In this play, Newman is located at the bottom of the screen lined up against Vincent Jackson. He back peddles with Jackson to the top of his route and then is able to plant his foot in the ground and jump the route.
Not only that, but he was able to hold onto the ball while Jackson was draped all over his back. Not a lot of cornerbacks would be able to make that catch, but Newman, even at 36, was able to come down with the interception.
The ability to create plays on defense is always important for a cornerback, and it is something Newman may be able to help the Vikings secondary with. Minnesota has a lot of young players in their secondary and having an experienced player like Newman backer there with them is likely to help.
Play No. 5But for every good play that Newman makes there is still a time where he will draw a penalty or get beat by the receiver. Every cornerback will get beat by a receiver at one point of another; it is just part of the game and bound to happen. And at the age of 36 – soon to be 37 – Newman may have lost a step or two and could get beat more often than he used to.
In this play, Newman is on the top of the screen and has the responsibility of covering Demaryius Thomas. Thomas is known as a deep threat, and he basically just runs right past Newman. The cornerback was still able to catch up to Thomas and bring him down, but not before Manning connected with him for a 46-yard completion.
Play No. 6Earlier on in this breakdown of Newman, we showed how he does a good job at avoiding penalties. Even though he has learned ways to avoid them, he was still the most penalized Bengal last year. Of his nine penalties, five of them were pass interference and two were defensive holding.
In this play, the Broncos have driven into the red zone and Newman has the responsibility of guarding Demaryius Thomas. Newman gets beat to the inside right after the snap of the ball. Manning then targeted D. Thomas and Newman tried to make the play, but ended up drawing a penalty instead.
He tried to reach around Thomas, but ended up pulling too much on Thomas’ hip and twisting him around, which ultimately led to a flag being thrown.
It is still not clear whether the Vikings plan to bring Newman in to compete for a starting job, to provide depth to the cornerback position or just want him there to help mentor the young defensive backs. Newman is going to be 37 before the start of the regular season and he likely does not have many years left in the NFL.
But no matter what the Vikings have planned for him, head coach Mike Zimmer is sure to have a plan. He coached Newman in Dallas and Cincinnati, and Zimmer is known to be one of the best defensive backs coaches in the NFL.
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