Safety In Numbers?

The Vikings are still holding out hope that one of their potential safeties can turn that potential into a legitimate starting job. But as a team source chronicles the progress at camp, he feels one of a number of action plans will have to be executed and accepted.

Throughout the offseason and heading into training camp, the Vikings were of the belief that if they could improve a porous defense, the team would become immediately competitive. Heading into the preseason-game portion of camp, the Vikings feel the team is coming together.

With the free safety spot in the capable hands of Corey Chavous, the competition at the strong safety position has taken on a look of promise. Heading into training camp, members of the Vikings coaching staff had hoped that Willie Offord or Brian Russell would claim the opening next to Chavous. While the slow growth of Offord and Russell has caused head coach Mike Tice to openly question the stability of the strong safety position, the coaching staff also has used this opportunity to motivate and send a message to the team that the coaching staff is looking for consistent improvement.

Improvement was expected, but this slow growth process is creating a weak link in the defensive backfield. When bringing in veteran free-agent cornerbacks Denard Walker and Ken Irvin, the team had hoped that Offord and Russell could complement a defensive backfield that also has Brian Williams at one corner position, as well as Chavous at free safety.

"Heading into camp we knew that we had some very athletic players in the secondary. Our goal was to get these (Offord and Russell) guys reps and see what they could do. From Day 1 we have pretty much followed that script and the results have been mixed. One day they get it and the next day the same play will bite them in the ass. We have to work towards consistency. Right now that is the biggest issue and challenge," a team source said. "Both of these guys (Russell and Offord) are young and inexperienced, but they have shown an elevated desire to succeed and are trying to rise to the challenge put towards them.

"The talent is there, the athletic ability is there, the time has to come where the lights go on for a player and that sometimes comes with repetition and experience. It also doesn't hurt that they are playing next to a veteran like Corey (Chavous) that is like a teacher out there."

Needless to say, the Vikings are not comfortable with Offord and Russell at strong safety right now, and the plan of growth and patience preached heading into training camp may be close to an end in the defensive backfield.

"The time will come where the coaching staff will have to make a decision with the structure of the defensive backfield and live with it. Right now is not that time, and we have some options to consider," the source said. "We have a player in Brian Williams that we believe will be a fine cornerback and could become a very good safety. We want to play him at corner, but safety is not out of the question. We have had more than one discussion about such a move."




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