The Minnesota Vikings defense will have a tough matchup this week against the San Francisco 49ers. They have been known as a ground-and-pound team for the past couple years, but it may be their aerial attack that causes the Vikings defense problems.
For one, they are going up against the 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. He is known for his legs, but he also has a big arm and can make any throw on the field and this year he has Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith to throw the ball to.
These are two receivers with very different skill sets, but both have proven that they can be successful in the NFL. It will be a tough test for the Vikings secondary in the first week of the regular season but defensive coordinator George Edwards seems to be confident in his players.
“We feel good about the guys we’ve got working in the secondary,” Edwards said. “Like anything else, any given day, you’ve got to go out there and you’ve got to compete. That’s why we try and go out there and compete each and every day because that’s what it’s going to be Sunday.”
Boldin is entering into his 13th season in the NFL and during his time in the league he has proven time and time again that he is one of the more physical receivers to play the game. He measures in at 6-foot-1, 220 pounds and is able to use his size to his advantage.
He also has a knack at finding open space on the field so the Vikings are going to want to make sure they keep a close eye on him, especially when Kaepernick starts to scramble.
“(Boldin)’s an excellent route runner. He’s very aggressive, he’s willing to go block, he’s a complete receiver,” Edwards said. “We tell our guys we’ve seen him on tape. He’s been consistent throughout his career at doing those things, very astute at being able to get in and out of the cut, and get open and with the quarterback buying time, next thing you know, you’ve got to keep your eyes on him because he’ll re-work the route. So from that aspect of it, he’s been very successful at it and we’ve got to be very conscious of him, especially in the slot.”
The other receiver the Vikings will really need to keep an eye on is the 49ers recent free agent signing, Smith. Where Boldin is a big, physical receiver, Smith is the type who can turn any play into a big gain when he has the ball in his hands.
Vikings cornerback Xavier Rhodes had the opportunity to face Smith in 2013 when the receiver was still with the Baltimore Ravens and he said his speed is what you really need to look out for.
“What you see is what you know about Torrey, speed,” Rhodes said. “He’s a great receiver. He’s going to blow the top off. He runs good routes. You just got to watch out for him going deep. That’s one of his main focuses is a deep route runner because he uses his speed to his advantage. That is my goal, just try to stay on top – that’s our goal every week on each opponent, stay on top of the receiver – but with him, he’s pretty fast.”
The Vikings acquired their own speedster this offseason as well in Mike Wallace, and Edwards believes that having his presence on the team helps the defense prepare to play against players such as Smith.
“There is no doubt about it,” the defensive coordinator said. “Our receivers – they’re a competitive group, they do a good job of coming to work every day. Mike and the rest of the receiving group has really helped us, you can tell. We have to go out there and compete every day against that caliber of talent. So from that aspect of it, we’ve had to do that every day, which is good for us.”
The Vikings can prepare all they want, but they still have to be able to go out and perform on the field in when it counts. The secondary has looked good in the preseason, but the regular season is usually a whole different animal, and their first test of the season is no slouch.