The Vikings defense had some rough moments in the team's 27-15 loss to Cleveland in the preseason opener, but cornerback Corey Chavous is confident the unit will be much improved once the regular season begins.
"I think we will be a lot better than people expect," he said. "I think as we get more comfortable and more acclimated to the defense that [defensive coordinator Willie Shaw] is doing, we will make more plays."
If the Vikings defense is going to make a turnaround, Chavous likely will play a big role. The Vikings signed the free agent to a four-year contract, which included a $2 million signing bonus, in March.
If Chavous is able to shut down the top receivers the Vikings face each week — he will often draw the toughest matchups — it will be money well spent. "The pressure is on me to make plays. I think that's why they brought me in here," Chavous said. "I don't want to come in here and be just another guy."
Chavous, who played college football at Vanderbilt, spent the past four seasons with the Arizona Cardinals. A second-round pick in the 1998 draft by the Cardinals, Chavous started 14 games in 2001, posting career highs in solo (59) and total tackles (87). He also had 11 passes defensed.
One reason he elected to sign with the Vikings was because of the experience he had his rookie season when he played in the Cardinals' playoff loss at the Metrodome.
"That's the big reason I chose this team," he said. "The atmosphere in the Metrodome is one of the loudest in the league. That's something I experienced. I think those things contributed to my decision. I also like the direction that Coach (Mike) Tice has the team going in. I think people understand what he wants, what he expects and I think he has a vision. Just like any organization, we have a mission statement, so we'll follow that and I think things will work out fine.
During Chavous' time in Arizona, the Cardinals had a 25-39 record. However, he was encouraged by what he saw from his former team last season, despite a 7-9 finish.
"That team was only three or four games from being a playoff team," Chavous said. "Two close losses to Washington [if they had gone the other way] would have made them 9-7."
Chavous, though, senses a difference in the Vikings' camp. "I think here what you can tell is the disappointment of last season is eroding away because people aren't used to losing here and the tradition around these parts is very deep rooted," he said. "It's something that I think motivates everybody within the organization."
Chavous' interest in the NFL goes well beyond the playing field. He also has a great interest in the personnel side. Want evidence? Chavous has a collection of more than 1,000 sporting video tapes and has such extensive knowledge of college players that ESPN has used him on its draft coverage.
So Chavous is more than qualified to provide an opinion on the state of the NFL and the fact that teams such as the New England Patriots can go from a 5-11 season to a Super Bowl championship.
"I think it has its positives," he said. "You would like to see the tradition stay the same. When I was growing up, teams like the Washington Redskins and the Fun Bunch, then you had the Raiders, who had a good football team. You look at teams like the Cleveland Browns, who had their run, the Denver Broncos had their run for a while, the Giants, the Bears.
"Back in the day, teams stayed together a little bit longer, so you saw teams have their runs. Now you are not going to see a Mark Clayton, Mark Duper and Dan Marino stay together for five, six, seven years."
Chavous, however, says quarterback Daunte Culpepper and receiver Randy Moss could be an exception. "The great thing about what the Vikings have is they have two guys who if they stay together, I think are the same quality as Montana to Rice and some of the great combinations you had in the past," he said.
Chavous Ready For Big Plays
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