Matt Vensel is in his first year at the Star Tribune after covering the Ravens for the Baltimore Sun for six years. He is a Pittsburgh native and a Penn State grad. Follow him at @mattvensel.


Mark Craig has covered the NFL for 23 years, and the Vikings since 2003 for the Star Tribune. He is one of 44 Pro Football Hall of Fame selectors. Follow him at @markcraignfl.


Master Tesfatsion is the Star Tribune’s digital Vikings writer. He is a 2013 graduate of Arizona State and worked for mlb.com before arriving in Minneapolis. Follow him at @masterstrib.


Secondary depth gives Frazier sense of relief

Posted by: Mark Craig under Vikings, NFC, Leslie Frazier, Antoine Winfield, Leslie Frazier Updated: August 22, 2012 - 5:31 PM

Coach Leslie Frazier was talking about the sheer joy of having depth in the secondary for the first time since 2009 when he was asked just how agonizing it must have been to game plan for NFC North teams and the other high-powered offenses the Vikings faced during last season's 3-13 nightmare.

"Don't take me back!" said Frazier, extending his arm before the question had ended. "Those are bad memories, man."

Then, Les being Les, he politely expanded on the answer in a way that better illustrated the frustration that he and his coaches felt when their secondary collapsed because of injuries and cornerback Chris Cook's legal issues.

"When you know going into the game that you're limited and you know that other people look at the tape and know you're limited, it's tough," he said. "We played a team. I won't mention the team. And one of those guys who coaches the secondary called me after the game and said, 'Man, going into the game, we knew if we put this package on the field, you couldn't match up. And if we did this, you couldn't match up. I don't know what you're going to do, but you guys have to address your secondary.'"

The Vikings did just that. They signed veterans Chris Carr and Zack Bowman in free agency. They drafted three defensive backs, including starting free safety Harrison Smith in the first round. And they also benefit from the return of Cook and Antoine Winfield, who missed 11 games because of a neck injury and a broken clavicle.

"I think we've addressed some of those issues this offseason," Frazier said. "If we can keep our guys healthy, it should help us answer some questions when we play opposing offenses.

"We think we can give people some different looks and try to be creative with some of the things we try to do. We've got more depth now than I can ever remember, which bodes well. It should give us a chance to some things to help our defense get better."

Frazier said injuries and a lack of depth have kept the Vikings from using man coverages on a consistent basis since 2009. Inconsistent safety play didn't help either, Frazier said. 

"Especially today, when you rely on safeties to cover tight ends," Frazier said. "You know when you have a liability there, it's going to get exposed when you play man. So you're less likely to play man. And you're going have problems. It depends how you want to die. Slow death, or quick death?"

Frazier also hinted that the team may keep more defensive backs than it typically does. Usually, the Vikings keep 11 (six corners and five safeties).

 

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