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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Buffalo 12/28/14 12:00 PM
New England
Cleveland 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Baltimore
Dallas 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Washington
Indianapolis 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Tennessee
Jacksonville 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Houston
San Diego 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Kansas City
NY Jets 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Miami
Chicago 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Minnesota
Philadelphia 12/28/14 12:00 PM
NY Giants
New Orleans 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Carolina 12/28/14 3:25 PM
Atlanta
Detroit 12/28/14 3:25 PM
Green Bay
Oakland 12/28/14 3:25 PM
Denver
Arizona 12/28/14 3:25 PM
San Francisco
St. Louis 12/28/14 3:25 PM
Seattle
Cincinnati 12/28/14 7:30 PM
Pittsburgh
Brooklyn 109 FINAL
Boston 107
Cleveland 92 4th Qtr 2:45
Orlando 85
Indiana 68 3rd Qtr 2:55
Detroit 82
Milwaukee 79 3rd Qtr 2:47
Atlanta 52
Houston 50 3rd Qtr
Memphis 57
San Antonio 44 3rd Qtr
New Orleans 48
Charlotte 40 3rd Qtr
Oklahoma City 59
LA Lakers 21 2nd Qtr 10:00
Dallas 30
Minnesota 8:00 PM
Denver
Philadelphia 9:00 PM
Portland
Phoenix 9:00 PM
Sacramento
Illinois 18 FINAL
Louisiana Tech 35
Rutgers 40 FINAL
North Carolina 21
NC State 14 2nd Qtr 9:05
UCF 10
Cincinnati 12/27/14 12:00 PM
Virginia Tech
(15) Arizona State 12/27/14 1:10 PM
Duke
Miami-Florida 12/27/14 2:30 PM
So Carolina
Boston College 12/27/14 3:30 PM
Penn State
(25) Nebraska 12/27/14 7:00 PM
(24) USC
Texas A&M 12/29/14 1:00 PM
West Virginia
Oklahoma 12/29/14 4:30 PM
(18) Clemson
Arkansas 12/29/14 8:00 PM
Texas
Notre Dame 12/30/14 2:00 PM
(22) LSU
(13) Georgia 12/30/14 5:45 PM
(20) Louisville
Maryland 12/30/14 9:00 PM
Stanford
(9) Ole Miss 12/31/14 11:30 AM
(6) TCU
(21) Boise State 12/31/14 3:00 PM
(12) Arizona
(8) Miss State 12/31/14 7:00 PM
(10) Georgia Tech
(19) Auburn 1/1/15 11:00 AM
(17) Wisconsin
(7) Michigan State 1/1/15 11:30 AM
(4) Baylor
(16) Missouri 1/1/15 12:00 PM
Minnesota
(2) Florida State 1/1/15 4:00 PM
(3) Oregon
(5) Ohio State 1/1/15 7:30 PM
(1) Alabama
Houston 1/2/15 11:00 AM
Pittsburgh
Iowa 1/2/15 2:20 PM
Tennessee
(11) Kansas State 1/2/15 5:45 PM
(14) UCLA
Washington 1/2/15 9:15 PM
Oklahoma State
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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 NoonX19-13 ot
Nov 2 - vs. Washington NoonX29-26
Nov 9 - Bye
Nov 16 - at Chicago NoonX21-13
Nov. 23 - vs. Green Bay NoonX24-21
Nov. 30 - vs. Carolina NoonX31-13
Dec 7 - vs. NY Jets NoonX30-24 ot
Dec 14 - at Detroit 3:25 pmX16-14
Dec 21 - at Miami NoonX37-35
Dec 28 - vs. Chicago Noon

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