Confident secondary has big test

  • Article by: KENT YOUNGBLOOD , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 8, 2011 - 11:55 AM

In Philip Rivers and Co., the Chargers boast a prolific offense. But the Vikings defensive backs promise they'll be up to the challenge.

Chris Cook wasn't familiar with NFL power rankings. So when a teammate recently told him about a Week 1 ranking that gave the Vikings very little credit, his first reaction was, "What's that?"

Which soon became: "What's this?"

"Everybody is sleeping on us," the Vikings cornerback said. "Apparently we're 26th and [San Diego] is No. 3. I was like, 'Whatever.'"

There was a smile, a bit of an eye roll. Perhaps a suggestion: Wait until Sunday.

What's that line about being careful what you wish for? The Vikings open the season at San Diego, consensus favorite to win the AFC West and owners of one of the most potent passing attacks in the NFL last season.

Philip Rivers is coming off a season in which he was second in the league in passer rating (101.8), first with 4,710 passing yards and fifth with 30 TD passes.

And the receiving corps is filled with guys who dwarf their competition. Vincent Jackson, back after a 2010 season marred by his holdout, is 6-5. So is Malcom Floyd. Antonio Gates is a dominant tight end at 6-4. And the running back combination of Ryan Mathews and Mike Tolbert looks to be formidable.

"[The Chargers] are a challenge for any defense, let alone coming off what we're coming off from a health standpoint," Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said. "Terrific receivers, terrific quarterback. No. 1 offense from a year ago. We'll find out where we are, early on.''

The Chargers have an aggressive style, a smart, quick-thinking quarterback and all sorts of weapons to which to throw. The Vikings, meanwhile, have two cornerbacks coming off knee injuries in Cedric Griffin and Cook, and continuing questions at safety.

"They're explosive," said veteran cornerback Antoine Winfield, generously listed at 5-9. "All their receivers are 6-4 or better. ... I'm sure we'll be up to it."

Of course, that has to be the belief. But, at the very least, it is a heck of a difficult start for a secondary still coming together.

Winfield and Griffin -- who is coming back from a second torn anterior cruciate ligament that limited him to two games last season -- are the starting cornerbacks. Cook, the nickel back, sustained torn cartilage in both knees that limited him to six up-and-down games as a rookie last season. Even Frazier said the coaches were waiting to see exactly what they have, even though Frazier knows the potential of the group, referencing the one game last year -- a home victory over Detroit -- in which all three were on the field together.

Neither Griffin nor Cook -- who nursed a sore hamstring in camp -- saw extensive action in the preseason. At strong safety, Jamarca Sanford and Tyrell Johnson went through camp battling for the starting job before Sanford emerged by a nose.

The Vikings, reacting to injuries all season, finished 22nd in pass defense in 2010. Now their top three corners are healthy for the opener, but have they had enough time together?

"I talk to Antoine all the time about that," said Cook, who plays outside with Winfield moving into the slot in nickel situations. "We can go out and be the best three [cornerbacks] in the league if we all do what we can do."

Given the San Diego approach, the Vikings could be forced into some sets with six defensive backs. In that case, Marcus Sherels likely would be the final extra back, lining up in the slot. At the very least, the Vikings figure to be in nickel better than half the time.

One thing is for sure. The team will know a lot more about its defensive backs after this game.

  • VIKINGS WEEK 1

    3:15 p.m. Sunday at San Diego TV: Ch. 9 (100.3-FM, 1130-AM)

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San Francisco - LP: J. Peavy 2 FINAL
Kansas City - WP: K. Herrera 7
San Diego 10/23/14 7:25 PM
Denver
Detroit 10/26/14 8:30 AM
Atlanta
Buffalo 10/26/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
St. Louis 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Kansas City
Houston 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Tennessee
Minnesota 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Seattle 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Carolina
Baltimore 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Cincinnati
Miami 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Chicago 10/26/14 12:00 PM
New England
Philadelphia 10/26/14 3:05 PM
Arizona
Oakland 10/26/14 3:25 PM
Cleveland
Indianapolis 10/26/14 3:25 PM
Pittsburgh
Green Bay 10/26/14 7:30 PM
New Orleans
Washington 10/27/14 7:30 PM
Dallas
Houston 90 FINAL
Orlando 89
Brooklyn 86 FINAL
Boston 100
Washington 100 FINAL
New York 103
Cleveland 92 FINAL
Memphis 96
Minnesota 110 FINAL
Milwaukee 91
Atlanta 117 FINAL
San Antonio 107
Portland 86 FINAL
LA Lakers 94
Phoenix 105 FINAL
LA Clippers 108
Toronto 0 Postponed
Ottawa 0
Philadelphia 5 FINAL
Pittsburgh 3
Washington 2 FINAL
Edmonton 3
Buffalo 1 FINAL
Anaheim 4
Arkansas State 40 FINAL
Louisiana 55
Connecticut 10/23/14 6:00 PM
(18) East Carolina
Miami-Florida 10/23/14 7:00 PM
Virginia Tech
So Florida 10/24/14 6:00 PM
Cincinnati
Troy 10/24/14 6:30 PM
South Alabama
BYU 10/24/14 8:00 PM
Boise State
(6) Oregon 10/24/14 9:00 PM
California
North Texas 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Rice
UAB 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Arkansas
Rutgers 10/25/14 11:00 AM
(16) Nebraska
Maryland 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Wisconsin
Texas 10/25/14 11:00 AM
(11) Kansas State
Minnesota 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Illinois
Memphis 10/25/14 11:00 AM
SMU
North Carolina 10/25/14 11:30 AM
Virginia
San Jose St 10/25/14 12:00 PM
Navy
Northern Ill 10/25/14 12:00 PM
Eastern Mich
(25) UCLA 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Colorado
Akron 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Ball State
Massachusetts 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Toledo
Ohio U 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Western Mich
Ga Southern 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Georgia State
Kent State 10/25/14 1:30 PM
Miami-Ohio
Oregon State 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Stanford
Fla Atlantic 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(23) Marshall
Louisiana Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Southern Miss
(1) Miss State 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Kentucky
Georgia Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Pittsburgh
(22) West Virginia 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Oklahoma State
Texas Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(10) TCU
Michigan 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(8) Michigan State
Boston College 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Wake Forest
Central Mich 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Buffalo
Vanderbilt 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Missouri
Old Dominion 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Western Ky
UNLV 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Utah State
Temple 10/25/14 4:00 PM
UCF
(15) Arizona 10/25/14 5:00 PM
Washington St
Texas-El Paso 10/25/14 6:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Wyoming 10/25/14 6:00 PM
Colorado State
Syracuse 10/25/14 6:00 PM
(21) Clemson
Texas State 10/25/14 6:00 PM
ULM
(3) Ole Miss 10/25/14 6:15 PM
(24) LSU
(4) Alabama 10/25/14 6:30 PM
Tennessee
So Carolina 10/25/14 6:30 PM
(5) Auburn
(13) Ohio State 10/25/14 7:00 PM
Penn State
(20) USC 10/25/14 9:00 PM
(19) Utah
(14) Arizona State 10/25/14 9:45 PM
Washington
Nevada 10/25/14 10:59 PM
Hawaii
Chivas USA 0 FINAL
Real Salt Lake 2
Montreal 10/24/14 5:30 PM
Ottawa
Saskatchewan 10/24/14 8:30 PM
Calgary
Hamilton 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Toronto
Brt Columbia 10/25/14 6:00 PM
Winnipeg
Hamilton 10/31/14 6:30 PM
Ottawa
Winnipeg 11/1/14 3:00 PM
Calgary
Brt Columbia 11/1/14 6:00 PM
Edmonton
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Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 preseason     
Aug 8 - vs. Oakland 7 pmX10-6
Aug 16 - vs. Arizona 7:30 pmX30-28
Aug 23 - at Kansas City 7 pmX30-12
Aug 28 - at Tennessee 7 pmX19-3
2014 regular season     
Sep 7 - at St. Louis NoonX34-6
Sep 14 - vs. New England NoonX30-7
Sep 21 - at New Orleans NoonX20-9
Sep 28 - vs. Atlanta 3:25 pmX41-28
Oct 2 - at Green Bay 7:25 pmX42-10
Oct 12 - vs. Detroit NoonX17-3
Oct 19 - at. Buffalo NoonX17-16
Oct 26 - at Tampa Bay Noon
Nov 2 - vs. Washington Noon
Nov 9 - Bye
Nov 16 - at Chicago Noon
Nov. 23 - vs. Green Bay Noon
Nov. 30 - vs. Carolina Noon
Dec 7 - vs. NY Jets Noon
Dec 14 - at Detroit Noon
Dec 21 - at Miami Noon
Dec 28 - vs. Chicago Noon

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