Edwards Fighting for Nickel Role

Despite the addition of second-round draft pick Cedric Griffin, cornerback Dovonte Edwards is hoping his experience from last year gives him an advantage in the competition for the nickel back role.

Dovonte Edwards lost what he called "a good friend" in cornerback Brian Williams in free agency. However, when the Minnesota Vikings rescinded the transition tag they placed on Williams and the Edwards' fellow North Carolina State alum was signed by Jacksonville, Edwards' playing time looked to increase.

"(It was) an opportunity for me to step up and take the challenge. We have a lot of guys that are going to be coming in and trying to compete for that nickel spot. I think I've got the first chance, the first opportunity, and I think I'll do the job," Edwards said at the veteran minicamp before the NFL draft.

During draft weekend, however, the Vikings used a second-round pick to select defensive back Cedric Griffin, a player many assume will have the first chance at the nickel back role in 2006.

Edwards was well aware that the Vikings could select another cornerback in the draft, but he has a built-in advantage, at least early in the competition, he said.

"I'm already here, learning the defense, learning the techniques, getting familiar with the coaching, so I don't worry about them bringing in a draft pick and competing," he said before the draft.

And he may be right. The success of the Vikings' new Tampa-2 defense is in the details.

"There is definitely a lot more technique involved in this scheme, some of which I'm not familiar with. It's going to take some time. This first minicamp, I felt myself progressing a little bit as far as taking constructive criticism and showing it on the field," said Edwards, who led Vikings rookies and ranked sixth on the team last year with 16 special teams tackles. "It's about technique, shuffles, angles and pursuit – just working hard. I'm taking coaching and I want to come out here and produce on the field."

He said he is used to playing about 7 yards off the ball with inside leverage, but the new style of defense requires him to play back 2 more yards and have outside leverage.

In the veteran minicamp in April, Edwards was the third cornerback in the rotation. When the Vikings went to a nickel defensive package, he was on the field covering the outside receiver and Antoine Winfield moved inside to cover the slot receiver.

"I like to play outside. I feel I can stand up on the outside. I feel like I've got the speed and the range and the length to compete on the outside on X receivers," said the second-year pro whose NFL highlight was a 51-yard interception return for a touchdown against the Green Bay Packers last year.

And, despite Griffin joining the team for this weekend's full-team minicamp, Edwards hopes he can be one of the X-factors in this defense with a contributing role, just like he earned his stripes last year.


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