Vikings secondary, in search of its identity, loses Allen

  • Article by: DAN WIEDERER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 31, 2012 - 8:13 AM

Asher Allen's retirement did catch the Vikings off guard. However, it's one of many issues the rebuilding unit is trying to sort out.

As Antoine Winfield came off the practice field Wednesday, finished with his second day of organized team activities, he was asked which of his fellow cornerbacks had made the biggest impression.

Winfield squinted, looked around, then smiled.

"Uhhhh, I'm not familiar with names yet," he confessed.

Hey, who could blame him for the confusion? With all the new faces roaming around the Vikings' defensive backfield right now, it might take flash cards to keep the names and faces straight.

To make matters more confusing, one of the few notable returnees expected to be in the secondary mix was missing Wednesday.

For good, too.

Cornerback Asher Allen, it turns out, informed the Vikings last week he was retiring -- after only three seasons, at age 24. Head coach Leslie Frazier revealed that surprise after practice but offered little to explain Allen's reasoning.

"I didn't see that coming," Frazier said. "But everybody has to make the decisions they think are best for them."

It's hard to say at this point whether Allen's decision was influenced by health worries. Attempts to reach the young defensive back were unsuccessful. But as safety concerns elevate across the NFL, it is worth nothing that Allen was listed on the injury report before nine games last season and missed games in Weeks 1, 4, 13 and 16 with foot, shoulder and head injuries.

Most significant, he suffered a concussion Dec. 18 against New Orleans. He'd also had a concussion a year earlier.

Quick change

Who knows how important a role Allen might have played in 2012? Out of necessity, he was a significant contributor last fall to a weakened defensive backfield. But with the aggressive rebuilding efforts ongoing, he might have had to battle just to make the roster.

Allen's exit, it's presumed, will open the door for the Vikings to add another body to their secondary. Whoever that turns out to be will have to introduce himself to Winfield, who in recent days has been getting to know new corners Chris Carr and Zack Bowman (both signed in free agency) and rookie Josh Robinson (drafted in the third round in April).

Oh, a pair of rookie safeties (Harrison Smith and Robert Blanton) also could be in line to earn significant playing time this fall.

Plus, promising corner Chris Cook is back after missing last season's final 10 games following his arrest on domestic assault charges.

No wonder Winfield has been admittedly dizzied by all the turnover.

"When you go 3-13, it happens," he said. "This is a business and hopefully change will be good. We have a lot of young guys hungry to compete."

At 34 and heading into his 14th season, Winfield admits he feels his clock ticking but vows to be a vocal veteran leader for all his new teammates.

"I'm very familiar with this defense," Winfield said. "I'm sure a lot of the young guys will have questions. My door is open. My phone is available. They can call me. I'll help with anything."

Winfield's new defensive coordinator, Alan Williams, is thrilled to have that stability. Especially amid all this change.

"I want Antoine to be himself," Williams said. "He's speaking up, taking guys under his wing and is showing them how the Vikings do things. You can't overstate the value of that. He's earned the right to be heard."

Hey, with so much secondary improvement needed, every little thing counts.

'It takes time'

Williams knew what he was getting into when he arrived in mid- January, inheriting a pushover pass defense that opposing quarterbacks bullied for 4,019 yards, 34 touchdowns and a startling 68.2 completion percentage last season.

The defensive coordinator knows improvement is mandatory. Still, he has no plans to dramatically change the system.

The personnel refurbishment should help.

For what it's worth, the Vikings used 11 different starters in the defensive backfield last season. Five of those players (Allen, Cedric Griffin, Tyrell Johnson, Husain Abdullah and Benny Sapp) are no longer with the team.

So while Williams acknowledges the struggles of 2011, he's not so sure how relevant they are going forward. After all, as Winfield will confirm, an array of new troops has arrived.

And so far Williams is encouraged by what he's seen. He sees Robinson's upside.

Bowman and Carr? They're experienced and hungry and will heighten the competition.

And Cook, Williams believes, should be in line for a breakout year.

"Before I even got here, I knew about Chris' talent," Williams said. "We looked at him when I was in Indianapolis. You very rarely get corners like him, a big guy who has little man features as far as quickness and an ability to run and change directions. He can be an elite corner in this league."

Still, for now, Williams is keeping his expectations tempered and the slogan simple: "It takes time."

If you ask the new defensive coordinator to convince outsiders that the secondary will be OK, he'll simply shrug, not ready in late May to make promises.

"That's not my job to convince anyone," he said. "Our job is to show results."

So how can the Vikings show results during OTAs and minicamp and into training camp?

"I don't think we can," Williams said. "This is a work in progress. And the only true way to show results and change minds is to win games."

Dan Wiederer • dan.wiederer@startribune.com

  • related content

  • Video: Access Vikings: Adrian vs. Percy sprint

    Thursday July 26, 2012

    Adrian Peterson and Percy Harvin were held out of practicing during OTAs at Winter Park, but that didn't keep...

  • Frazier: Rebuilding is a shared chore

    Wednesday May 30, 2012

    Vikings coach Leslie Frazier spoke up for his importance in shaping the future of the franchise when asked whether he feels the youth movement being orchestrated by new General Manager...

  • Chris Carr

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Philadelphia 12/20/14 3:30 PM
Washington
San Diego 12/20/14 7:25 PM
San Francisco
Minnesota 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Miami
Baltimore 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Houston
Detroit 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Chicago
Cleveland 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Carolina
Atlanta 12/21/14 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Green Bay 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Kansas City 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Pittsburgh
New England 12/21/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
NY Giants 12/21/14 3:05 PM
St. Louis
Buffalo 12/21/14 3:25 PM
Oakland
Indianapolis 12/21/14 3:25 PM
Dallas
Seattle 12/21/14 7:30 PM
Arizona
Denver 12/22/14 7:30 PM
Cincinnati
Utah 101 FINAL
Orlando 94
Charlotte 109 FINAL
Philadelphia 91
Brooklyn 91 FINAL
Cleveland 95
Washington 105 FINAL
Miami 103
Minnesota 98 FINAL
Boston 114
Toronto 110 FINAL
Detroit 100
Chicago 89 4th Qtr 4:33
Memphis 78
Portland 84 4th Qtr 6:00
San Antonio 85
LA Clippers 43 3rd Qtr
Denver 59
Oklahoma City 9:30 PM
LA Lakers
Tampa Bay 2 FINAL(SO)
New Jersey 3
Anaheim 2 FINAL
Ottawa 6
NY Islanders 2 FINAL
Detroit 1
Boston 1 3rd Prd 11:48
Winnipeg 2
Dallas 1 2nd Prd 14:07
Calgary 0
Wilberforce 71 FINAL
Youngstown St 92
Jackson State 49 FINAL
Tulane 56
Siena 66 FINAL
Radford 76
Stillman 49 FINAL
Alabama 69
Case Western Reserve 65 FINAL
Bucknell 88
Niagara 62 FINAL
Buffalo 88
SD Christian 46 FINAL
UC Santa Barbara 69
Concordia (MI) 60 FINAL
Central Mich 97
Northern Ill 55 FINAL
Dartmouth 58
North Florida 83 FINAL
Florida A&M 65
Hiwassee 71 FINAL
Gardner-Webb 91
Tennessee St 54 FINAL
Hampton 66
NC A&T 57 FINAL
Kent State 71
Central Penn College 65 FINAL
Liberty 94
Eastern Ky 72 FINAL
Miami-Florida 44
Northern Ky 83 FINAL
Morehead State 60
Northern Ariz 62 FINAL
Norfolk State 81
MD-Eastern Shore 43 FINAL
Old Dominion 60
St Marys-CA 47 FINAL
St Johns 53
Clemson 45 FINAL
South Carolina 68
Tenn Tech 58 FINAL
Tennessee 61
Washington-MD 46 FINAL
William & Mary 86
Bethune-Cookman 46 FINAL
Mercer 67
Furman 78 FINAL
Fla Gulf Coast 83
South Dakota St 53 FINAL
CS-Bakersfield 49
Milligan 53 FINAL
Lamar 80
LSU-Alexandria 71 FINAL
ULM 76
Southern Utah 57 FINAL
Loyola-Chicago 73
Chattanooga 58 FINAL
Middle Tennessee 68
Seattle 55 2nd Half 1:56
Minnesota 87
Lipscomb 55 FINAL
Princeton 77
Winthrop 71 FINAL
SE Louisiana 81
Dickinson State 48 FINAL
North Dakota 78
New Orleans 56 FINAL
Southern Ill 52
TX-Pan American 27 2nd Half
Creighton 39
Colorado State 45 2nd Half 14:44
Denver 47
Alabama A&M 20 2nd Half 14:59
Marquette 51
Ark-Pine Bluff 26 2nd Half
Texas Tech 35
Eastern Wash 0 1st Half 19:20
California 0
Idaho State 0 1st Half 18:15
Utah State 6
Arizona 10:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
Hawaii 10:59 PM
Chaminade
Nevada 12/20/14 10:00 AM
Louisiana
Utah State 12/20/14 1:20 PM
Texas-El Paso
(23) Utah 12/20/14 2:30 PM
Colorado State
Western Mich 12/20/14 4:45 PM
Air Force
South Alabama 12/20/14 8:15 PM
Bowling Green
BYU 12/22/14 1:00 PM
Memphis
Marshall 12/23/14 5:00 PM
Northern Ill
Navy 12/23/14 8:30 PM
San Diego St
Central Mich 12/24/14 11:00 AM
Western Ky
Fresno State 12/24/14 7:00 PM
Rice
Illinois 12/26/14 12:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
Rutgers 12/26/14 3:30 PM
North Carolina
NC State 12/26/14 7:00 PM
UCF
Ohio Valley 33 FINAL
Youngstown St 84
East Tenn St 48 FINAL
UNC-Wilmington 61
Cal-Irvine 44 FINAL
Purdue 69
Campbell 63 FINAL
Stetson 76
Jacksonville St 70 FINAL
Charleston Southern 43
Louisiana 64 FINAL
Alcorn State 57
Denver 63 FINAL
Wright State 72
Blue Mountain 30 FINAL
Central Arkansas 71
Texas State 51 FINAL
Bethune-Cookman 40
Albany 62 FINAL
Pepperdine 36
TX-San Antonio 53 FINAL
Houston 56
Yale 66 FINAL
Bucknell 73
Northern Colorado 56 FINAL
Fla Gulf Coast 69
Belmont 86 FINAL
Mercer 83
Massachusetts 66 FINAL
Georgia State 71
George Mason 69 FINAL
Winthrop 57
Portland State 33 FINAL
Princeton 104
UCLA 71 FINAL
Samford 52
Mobile 30 FINAL
Alabama State 66
Nicholls 49 FINAL
Texas Tech 76
Toledo 65 FINAL
Nevada 56
UMass Lowell 48 FINAL
(13) Duke 95
St Marys-CA 49 FINAL
Virginia 62
McNeese State 55 FINAL
Rice 57
McMurry 49 FINAL
Houston Baptist 69
NJIT 62 FINAL
Seton Hall 74
(6) North Carolina 65 FINAL
Maine 36
Lafayette 58 FINAL
Stony Brook 60
Siena 62 FINAL
Binghamton 53
Longwood 56 FINAL
Clemson 72
Savannah State 51 FINAL
Florida State 97
(19) Syracuse 72 FINAL
(9) Baylor 74
Buffalo 68 FINAL
Manhattan 58
Canisius 43 FINAL
Michigan 79
Davidson 66 FINAL
NC State 82
Northern Ky 63 FINAL
Delaware 58
Saint Louis 81 FINAL
Austin Peay 86
(25) DePaul 64 FINAL
(2) Connecticut 98
Ohio U 74 FINAL
La Salle 63
Florida Atlantic 60 FINAL
Long Beach St 85
Miss Valley St 39 FINAL
Memphis 62
Ark-Pine Bluff 56 FINAL
UAB 65
Miami-Florida 48 2nd Half 6:00
Tulane 55
Bowling Green 58 FINAL
Illinois State 54
Arkansas State 78 FINAL
Missouri State 62
ULM 42 FINAL
Wichita State 57
(16) Oregon State 34 2nd Half 17:14
Southern Ill 34
Pacific 9:00 PM
New Mexico St
Utah Valley U 9:00 PM
Montana
No Dakota State 0 1st Half 20:00
Cal State Fullerton 0
Utah State 2 1st Half 18:32
Sacramento St 7
Bethesda (CA) 0 1st Half 20:00
Fresno State 0
LSU 9:30 PM
UC Santa Barbara
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

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 Noon
Dec 28 - vs. Chicago Noon

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Will Christian Ponder ever be a full-time starter in the NFL?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close