When Cedric Griffin was selected in the second round of the 2006 draft, it was thought he was coming into an ideal situation. He was coming in behind two expensive free-agent signings in Antoine Winfield and Fred Smoot and was going to be allowed to settle in as a nickel back.
Thanks to injuries and a tragedy in Smoot's family, that plan was quickly changed. Of the 14 games Griffin played as a rookie, he started seven of them and quickly went from a wet-behind-the-ears rookie to a player the Vikings were depending on to make big plays.
It was a challenge Griffin accepted and one he didn't feel overwhelmed with. As he viewed it, he came in with the mentality that he was already a starter and it would be only a matter of time before everyone else agreed.
"My preparation level hasn't changed since the day I first got here," Griffin said. "I came in last year ready to start if I had been needed because of an injury or someone was sick. I always practiced like I was a starter because I thought if I built good practice habits it would carry over into games."
The Vikings were so confident in Griffin's ability that they released Smoot after the season and made no effort to bring in a veteran free agent to challenge Griffin for his starting job. It was his. He had earned it.
But that is not to say that he has figured out everything there is to know about the position. He understands his pro career is still a work in progress and, depending on the opponent, he will be the target of much of the pass offense. In the preseason game with the Jets, Chad Pennington and his offense attacked Griffin on seven pass plays in the first quarter. He had been targeted as a weak link and knew quickly on that he was going to be the focal point of the pass coverage.
"They know I'm a second-year NFL player and don't have a lot of experience," Griffin said. "They're going to try to pick on me a little bit more. I know that and I'm ready for it. I love the competition and my preparation will take care of itself."
One change Griffin has undergone is the switch in defensive coordinators from Mike Tomlin to Leslie Frazier. But, unlike a lot of teams that change coordinators from one year to the next, the changeover for the returning Vikings secondary players has been minimal.
"Coach Frazier runs the Cover-2, so the scheme is the same," Griffin said. "The only difference has been in the language. The system runs the same, it's just some of the wording is different. For the guys who were here last year, there hasn't been that much of a difference."
But the major difference Griffin will enjoy is when the Vikings defense is introduced to the fans and his name is in the starting lineup. While other teams may be looking at him as a key to success in moving the ball on the Vikings defense, Griffin has three words for them – bring it on!
"I'm expecting teams to come after me and I'm going to be ready for the challenge," Griffin said. "The only way you get them to stop throwing it at you is to show them it's a mistake to do it. I still have to prove that. If they're coming after me, I'm going to get my hands on a lot of balls this year."
Griffin Up to the Challenge
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