Chavous On The Rebound?

After a down season statistically last year and a rough offseason absorbing comments, Vikings safety Corey Chavous showed in the season opener why he is still a valuable member of an improving defense.

For what they're worth, various NFL preview magazines, web sites, and TV sports shows looked at the 2005 Minnesota Vikings and mentioned safety Corey Chavous as one of the players on the decline.

The statistics seemed to back it up. After sniping eight interceptions in 2003 and capping off the season with a trip to the Pro Bowl, Chavous garnered just one pick in 2004. Then the Vikings signed Darren Sharper in the offseason, drafted safety Dustin Fox in the third round last April, and Chavous appeared a malcontent when he skipped voluntary team minicamps.

The writing was on the wall, many pundits must have thought, that Chavous is destined for decline in 2005.

So far, though, Chavous has shown the contrary. When head coach Mike Tice declared days before training camp that he expected his veteran safety to arrive on time and be focused on football, Chavous must have heeded his advice.

Defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell recognized Chavous' resurgence during training camp.

"Corey Chavous at strong safety is playing like he did when he went to the Pro Bowl two years ago," Cottrell said.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were witnesses to that. Sharper returned an interception for a touchdown and cornerback Fred Smoot joined in with a pick, but Chavous was a rock in the defensive backfield. He tied Sharper for the team lead with 10 tackles.

"I just try to listen to what the coaches have to say and try to be as efficient as possible," Chavous said. "I'm always trying to improve on the weaknesses I have in my game."

Pairing Chavous with Sharper might give the Vikings one of the best safety tandems in the NFL. Both have Pro Bowl appearances on their resume, both hit hard, and both have shown the capability of making game-breaking plays.

Chavous said his biggest challenge on Sundays is to remain a player rather than a fan.

"It's tough sometimes when you're out there because you become a fan watching because he makes so many plays," Chavous said. "But the one thing about it is hopefully he has that same confidence working with me that allows him to take chances and make plays.

Assistant secondary coach Kevin Ross thinks the free agency additions to the secondary have provided Chavous with a surge.

"To me, he seems to be more focused and more physical than I ever have seen him before," Ross. "He's more focused, he's throwing his body around a whole lot and he's proven that he can catch the ball."

Through one game, Chavous shares the lead as the Vikings' leading tackler. If he continues that production, he can look for those same pundits who predicted decline entering this season to eat their words.

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