Vikings Still Possess Secondary Options

Despite losing former starting safety Brian Russell to the Cleveland Browns, the Vikings still have options at safety, even if each of those backup options comes with a question mark.

Assuming Brian Williams and Ken Irvin accept reduced roles, the Vikings could have decent backfield depth in their nickel and dime secondaries, even with the loss of Brian Russell.

Williams has started at right corner the past two seasons. Irvin, 32, was scheduled to begin last season as a nickel corner, but suffered a season-ending ruptured Achilles' tendon during pregame warmups before the season opener.

The Vikings have added right cornerback Fred Smoot and free safety Darren Sharper as starters this offseason. Williams is in line to be the nickel back behind Smoot and left cornerback Antoine Winfield. Irvin is back to full speed and has been switched to safety. He still has the speed to cover against multiple-receiver sets. Ralph Brown, who showed promise last year as a nickel back and special teams contributor, could be the team's dime back, depending on the draft choices coming in to compete. And Willie Offord, while inconsistent through much of his first three seasons with the Vikings, showed some promise in the playoffs while filling in for injured starter Corey Chavous.

Apparently Offord's playoff stint, combined with the return of Irvin and a potential draft pick were enough for the Vikings to let safety Brian Russell go to Cleveland in search of nearly double his restricted free-agent offer from Minnesota and a chance at a starting job. Despite starting 34 games for the Vikings, Russell was scheduled to become a backup in 2005 after the addition of Sharper and return to health of Chavous.


  • Coach Mike Tice and running backs coach Dean Dalton are still waiting to hear from the NFL regarding its investigation of their involvement in scalping Super Bowl tickets.

  • The Vikings are bringing an Eller to camp this summer. No, not Carl Eller, their Hall of Fame defensive end from the Purple People Eaters era. His son, Regis, will join the Vikings as a coaching fellowship intern for mini-camp and training camp. Former Vikings guard Corbin Lacina also will join the Vikings as a coaching fellowship intern.

  • Assuming the Vikings don't draft a running back with the seventh overall pick, running back Michael Bennett will be given every opportunity to win the starting job again. Injuries have slowed Bennett the past two seasons. "He had a great preseason last year before getting hurt," coach Mike Tice said. "I thought he was ready to take it to the next level."

    QUOTE TO NOTE: "We're wide open; we'll take the best player, regardless of position." — Coach Mike Tice, talking about the Vikings' plans for the seventh overall pick in the draft.

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