The Vikings made a quick and solid pickup when they added 11-year veteran safety Henry Jones to their roster after Robert Griffith went down.
With Griffith sidelined a minimum of six weeks due to a fractured fibula, the need for experienced leadership was a priority, and the Vikings acted quickly to fill the void.
"With the six- to eight-week injury to Robert Griffith we look for Henry to give us an experienced veteran in the secondary," said head coach and vice president of football operations Dennis Green. "We have some good young players, but the success that Henry had as a starter on some of the best defenses in the National Football League makes him a great addition."
The book on Jones (6-feet, 200 pounds) is that he has been one of the top safeties in the AFC over the past several years. He has the size and speed to cover tight ends as well as wide receivers. He's not going to be the force on run support that Griffith is, but his ability on pass coverage is every bit as good, if not better.
According to Pro Football Weekly analyst Joel Buchsbaum: "Jones has lost a step to age and was always undersized, but he is a good cover strong safety with some cornerback-type skills and can cover the slot receiver. He's on the downside of a long and very good career but still covers better than most."
The 33-year-old Jones started all 16 games for the Bills last season and finished third on the team with 109 tackles. He added two interceptions, 11 passes defensed, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery on the season.
Jones was a surprise cut by Buffalo at the end of preseason this year. New coach Gregg Williams wanted a more physical strong safety and believed second-year man Raion Hill fit that role better than Jones, whom Williams thought was better in coverage than run support. The Bills' new coaching staff calls for their strong safety to play more of a hybrid linebacker/safety position. Also, Jones was scheduled to count $4.55 million against the Bills' salary cap this season. So salary cap issues probably played the most significant role in the decision.
Jones played in 144 games during his career with the Bills and started 129 of them. He had started 61 consecutive games coming into this season and played in all 16 games in six of his 10 seasons in the NFL. He has recorded 898 tackles, 18 interceptions and 94 passes defensed during his NFL career. He recorded 100 tackles or more in each of the past four seasons.
Jones was named to the Pro Bowl in his first season as a starter in 1992, when he posted 92 tackles and eight interceptions.
He was originally drafted by the Bills in the first round (26th overall) of the 1991 NFL draft out of Illinois, where he was a cornerback.
After being waived by the Bills in August, Jones reportedly worked out for Detroit and had also been contacted by New Orleans, but had been waiting for a better opportunity. The injury to Griffith provided that opportunity.
Jones wears No. 21 since joining the Vikings.
Griffith's immediate replacement, third-year pro Don Morgan, is a player who is familiar with the Vikings' scheme on defense. He's been in the program for parts of three seasons.
"I think Don can do a solid job," said Green, who likes to develop the underdog-type players. "We like that style of player, guys that come from nowhere, not drafted, have something to prove. Don has got something to prove and we like that kind of mentality. He's a couple of years on the practice squad, half a year on the street, bringing him back and now all of a sudden he is starting for us. I think that he is a smart player, good athlete, can make plays on the ball. He's a good ballhawk, can return punts and return kickoffs and is a good, solid tackler."
Morgan (5-11, 202) solidified a roster spot this summer with some steady play during preseason action when he showed a nose for the ball, including an interception in the Pittsburgh game.
An undrafted free agent in 1999, Morgan spent most of the past two seasons on their practice squad. Primarily a special teams player, he saw his first extensive action with the regular defense in the NFC Championship game last January, when he notched his first career interception against the Giants.
An All-Big West cornerback at Nevada-Reno, Morgan started the final 34 games of his college career and set school records for punt returns (79), punt return yardage (771) and a career 9.8-yard average on punt returns.
Morgan is a virtual unknown to most fans, but so was the guy he's replacing (Griffith) when he stepped into a starting role.
The Book On Henry Jones
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