Vikings starting cornerbacks Cedric Griffin (ACL) and Antoine Winfield (foot) have not participated in Organized Team Activities this spring, although it's expected Winfield will be present for the mandatory minicamp next weekend. (Griffin already is doing rehab work at Winter Park.)
Nonetheless, Griffin and Winfield's absences have given the Vikings' other corners an opportunity to get plenty of work and make a favorable impression. One guy who has done exactly that is Asher Allen, who was selected in the third-round out of Georgia a year ago. Allen was inactive for the Vikings' first six games last season but got on the field after Winfield broke his foot in October against Baltimore.
“The young corners have done well," defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier said. "Asher Allen has really stepped up and had a great set of OTAs. Now, you’ve got to get to pads, but he’s done well. Chris Cook has done a good job for us, Benny Sapp has done a good job. All those corners have really come along. Lito Sheppard is still learning the system because there are a few tweaks on what he remembers from Philadelphia. But still there is some carry over from him. But he’s been at the OTAs, he’s helped us a lot. I think we’re going to be all right at corner.”
It appears a long shot Griffin will be ready to start the season, meaning there is a good chance that when the base defense is on the field on Sept. 9 at New Orleans it will be Winfield at the left corner and Sheppard (signed as a free agent this spring after being let go by the Jets) at right corner. Of course, Allen and Sapp could join the battle for that job in training camp.
Because teams so often have to use a third corner in nickel situations that position has become critical as well. The Vikings opened last season with Sapp as the nickel but that changed when Winfield got hurt. Winfield missed six games and when he did return it became clear he wasn't ready to play full time on the outside. That forced the Vikings to move Winfield inside on passing downs.
Frazier said that ideally Winfield will be able to move back to the outside full time in 2010. That leaves Allen and Sapp as the most likely to compete for the inside spot. Frazier said that Cook and Sheppard are both outside guys and won't play against the slot receiver.