Cosell assesses Vikings' perceived weaknesses

Vikings free agency has gotten off to the expected slow start, but there are areas they could look to address in free agency and the draft. NFL Films senior producer Greg Cosell, a big consumer of coaches film, talks about the play of the offensive line, Jasper Brinkley and the safeties.

Tim Yotter: What was your assessment of John Sullivan at center in his first year starting? Is that a position the Vikings need to go out and look at in free agency?

Greg Cosell:
I think their offensive line really struggled this year. Really struggled. I've said for years that Bryant McKinnie is an average NFL left tackle and the thing that always bothered me about him is his total lack of competitiveness. The guy has great feet, and if you just looked at him you'd go, ‘There is a prototypical left tackle.' But he doesn't play that way.

I think Steve Hutchinson is at the end of his career. I don't think he had a very good year.

TY: He was hurt quite a bit. He was dealing with back issues.

But I think that's going to be an issue every year. I don't think he's quite at that level anymore.

I think Sullivan – you have to study these guys every single play and I didn't – but I thought their offensive line as a whole did not play well. I think (Anthony) Herrera is a terrific try-hard mauler/fighter who will do anything to make the block, but he's very limited talent-wise. I think (Phil) Loadholt is a competitor. He'll get better. He played left tackle in college. He's obviously a right tackle, which is what he has to be in the NFL because he doesn't have real good quickness. He really struggled on occasion, but he'll get better. With Sullivan, nothing stood out on film to me as either a negative or a positive. He struck me as just the center on the Vikings.

TY: What about Jasper Brinkley filling in for E.J. Henderson in the middle of the defense. Was he a liability in pass coverage?

Yes. In fact, I think Brinkley is in many ways a dinosaur in the NFL. To me, he's a B-gap to B-gap player. He doesn't run real well. He can't play in pass coverage. You can teach guys – maybe he gets better reading and reacting – but at the end of the day he's not going to become a better athlete. Obviously they made it to the end of the championship game, so when I say he really hurt them, they had a great season but I don't think he's the answer in the middle.

TY: There is also a lot of talk about the safety position there in the middle of the field. Madieu Williams came in and they liked him, but I didn't think he really stood out. And then Tyrell Johnson I think is still trying to figure things out. Is that a position you think that they can survive with those two guys there or do they need to make an upgrade?

What they ultimately need to decide is whether Johnson's issues are coachable and he can improve. Because I think he's got a good skill set, but I think he took bad angles a lot in the run game. I think he was a little slow to react at times. So you have to decide – and you'd have to be there every day and I'm not, so I'm just telling you what I see on film – and he just finished his second year and he came from Arkansas State, a smaller school, so they have to decide if his issues are coachable. I do think he has a complete skills set to play. But if those issues don't get better, he's always going to be a step short.

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