The Vikings were trying to sign free-agent safety Lawyer Milloy, but lost out to the Buffalo Bills. Instead of paying a steep price for a veteran, at this point the Vikings decided they would rather stick with their plan to build on what they have right now and keep money available to extend Jim Kleinsasser or Chris Hovan.
While Milloy talk came and went, the Vikings appear ready to build on Brian Russell pairing with Corey Chavous. Willie Offord and Russell were embattled in a nondescript tussle for either the opening free safety or strong safety positions, depending on which player could rise to the occasion, in training camp.
With veteran Corey Chavous entrenched in the defensive backfield, one of the young Minnesota defensive backs desperately needed to show some signs of life. In the early going neither player stood out. Suddenly, Offord appeared to gain an edge and grasp of the opportunity.
"We were not sure who was going to line up next to Corey (Chavous) on any given play, but in training camp we were reserved to the notion that we would give these young guys (Offord and Russell) an opportunity to show us what they could do and grow," a team source said. "As an organization, we were on the cusp of making some rash decisions. From scouring our list of available players to looking at our roster, we were seriously looking at all the options. We were not satisfied heading into the season with a huge question back there (at safety)"
Offord, an athletic defensive back was growing in confidence and it showed on the practice field. In a close competition, he was more consistent and was gaining a rapport with the veteran Chavous in the secondary.
"About midway though camp, Offord MAY have been ‘the guy,' " the source said.
Just as quickly as Offord impressed, he disappointed. And, the Brian Russell the Vikings thought they had suddenly came to life.
"What we are seeing is a work in progress. Brian Russell may not be the best practice player in camp, but he is learning how to practice, how to read and understand what the offense is doing," the source said. "What makes Russell so intriguing is his elevated play in game conditions in comparison to his showing in practice."
"He is a much better game player than practice player, but again he has really improved in that area and we expect that to continue. With the veterans we now have in the defensive backfield, Russell has the opportunity to learn from players (Chavous, Denard Walker and Ken Irvin) that have played in this league and his growth potential is high."
While cornerback Brian Williams remains a consideration to move to a safety position if either Russell or Offord falter, the team would rather leave him at cornerback.
"We were close to making the move (Williams to safety), and if we were not as banged up as we were in training camp at that position, we may have made the move," the source said. "Obviously, we will continue to monitor the action and if a player were to be available that would improve this team, we would take a look."
They looked and dabbled with Milloy, but for now Brian Russell is the man and the game is in his hands.
Why They Believe In Russell
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