DBs Just Getting Started

The defensive backfield has made an incredible turnaround since last season, but the feeling amongst those players is that they're just going to continue getting better. See why they think that.

Mention cornerback Denard Walker and assistant secondary coach Kevin Ross says, "Who?" Mention cornerback Ken Irvin and the response is similar.

Truth is, the less you hear about either one, the better. That's the way the Vikings like it.

"You don't hear his name get called," Ross said of Walker. "That's a great thing. Irvin and Walker are pretty much the same kind of person — they don't get too high or low."

That's a plus for the Minnesota Vikings.

Look at their defense. So far this season, the Vikings are ranked among the league's best, which is a dramatic turnaround from a year ago when opponents marched on the ground and flew threw the air up and down the field with little to no resistance.

There are plenty of reasons why the Vikings defense is near the top. The pass rush has improved dramatically. Now we routinely hear Vikings coaches talk about opposing quarterbacks feeling claustrophobic in the pocket rather than comfortable.

"As it is (opposing quarterbacks) are trying to force balls in and they are fluttering up there when the quarterback is getting hit," safety Brian Russell said. "Corey and myself and really the whole secondary is just trying to chase after them."

Russell and Chavous are bagging all the interceptions, but there is more to it than passing out all the props to the defensive line. Unlike last year, when Vikings safeties were constantly scrambling to account for deficiencies in pass coverage by cornerbacks, they are able to become better "ball hawks" because the corners are doing their jobs.

That starts with Walker and Irvin, and Brian Williams and Eric Kelly. While Williams and Kelly have improved, the addition of free agents Walker and Irvin may be the biggest difference from last year's defense to the present.

"The big thing is we're maturing and we're maturing together," Irvin said.

"We have a good mix of older guys in myself and Denard and Corey, and we have younger guys in Brian Russell and Brian Williams and Eric Kelly. You put that together with the coaches and we're all putting in a conscious effort to get better each week."

Kelly said the addition of the two veteran corners solidified the defense.

"Walker and Kenny Irvin came in and showed us how the game was meant to be played — not only on the field but off the field," Kelly said. "They're great role models and were exactly the kind of players we were looking for."

Chemistry lesson
Ask a Vikings defensive back, any Vikings defensive back, and the response will be the same: This team is tight, especially in the secondary.

This is only Chavous' second year in Minnesota. Williams and Russell are in their second seasons, too. This is Kelly's third year here. Walker and Irvin, of course, are both in their first tours of duty with the Vikings.

Yet, the Vikings secondary claims they're the tightest-knit unit on the team.

"Chemistry develops really quick," Irvin said. "Usually the secondary is the tightest group on the team because you're so exposed and there's a lot of pressure on you as a secondary player.

"You lose a lot of battles. We win games, but there are a lot of lost battles in every game. That brings chemistry because guys come to one another for help. You come together tightly. That's where you develop chemistry."

Unselfishness leads to better chemistry, too, as evidenced by Russell's attitude toward interceptions.

"If we keep winning I could care less if I get another interception," Russell said.


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