Since a mass exodus in the 2020 offseason, the Vikings’ secondary is a big problem. The three starting cornerbacks Xavier Rhodes, Trae Waynes, and Mackensie Alexander, all left in free agency and signed with different teams. What was left was the injury-prone Mike Hughes and Kris Boyd.
Former general manager Rick Spielman tried to fix the cornerback room through the draft when he selected Jeff Gladney and Cameron Dantzler in the first and third round, respectively. However, the secondary struggled severely.
The Vikings tried to fix it in free agency last year. Veterans Patrick Peterson and Beshaud Breeland signed with the purple team. Another change was the departure of safety Anthony Harris and the signing of Xavier Woods. Once again, the secondary struggled. In the third consecutive year, the Vikings invested heavily into their group of defensive backs.
The first two draft picks of Kwesi Adofo-Mensah’s career were defensive backs. He selected Lewis Cine in the first round and Andrew Booth in the second. Another pick was Akayleb Evans in the fourth round. He also re-signed Patrick Peterson and brought in Chandon Sullivan and Nate Hairston.
Vikings Secondary Ranked 26th
Sharp Football Analysis dropped a ranking of all secondaries in the NFL, and the Vikings checked in as 26th, a pedestrian ranking for the unit after all the investments. The purple team is trapped between the Jaguars and the Seahawks.
The ranking is based on the voting of staff writers from Sharp Football Analysis. They explained, “Patrick Peterson and Harrison Smith should provide some stability for the secondary, but neither is playing at their peak. The success of this unit will ultimately be determined by rookies Lewis Cine and Andrew Booth, who will immediately be thrust into pivotal roles.”
It will be interesting to see how much the two veterans have left in the tank. Last season, Smith still played at an elite level, while Peterson already lost a step and played like an average cornerback. Opponents are still hesitant to target the veteran. He provides veteran leadership and stability to the position.
What is incorrect is that the rookies will determine success. Neither of the rookies may start. Cameron Dantzler is running away with the second outside cornerback job after a terrific camp. The other rookie Lewis Cine is still behind Camryn Bynum. Just like Dantzler, Bynum is having an amazing summer. Dantzler and Bynum have already shown what they’re capable of, but neither was trusted to play a vital role under the previous regime. Now, they will get their chances.
Akayleb Evans could be a dark-horse contributor as a rookie. He had a great game against the 49ers in the second preseason game and even led the Vikings in tackles. Therefore, the whole coaching staff and Adofo-Mensah are raving about his talent. The three rookies could certainly raise the ceiling.
The unit should be improved and even has a high ceiling. What will help them come closer to the ceiling is the pass rush. Adding Za’Darius Smith and a healthy Danielle Hunter will work wonders for a secondary. They suddenly don’t have to cover their receiver for five seconds on every play because one of the two potential Pro Bowlers is pressuring the passer.
Vikings Face Top Group Early
The biggest rivals of the Vikings, and the Week 1 opponent, the Green Bay Packers, are ranked first. The secondary is great. Jaire Alexander comes back from injury and is one of the elite cornerbacks. Eric Stokes, a 2021 first-round pick, and Rasul Douglas, a surprising riser of the 2021 season, are among the best cornerback trios in the league. Safety Adrian Amos is an annually underrated player. The strong unit will be tested in Week 1 when they face Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen, and K.J. Osborn in the new Vikings’ scheme.
Janik Eckardt is a football fan who likes numbers and stats. The Vikings became his favorite team despite their quarterback at the time, Christian Ponder. He is a walking soccer encyclopedia, loves watching sitcoms, and Classic rock is his music genre of choice. Follow him on Twitter if you like the Vikings: @JanikEckardt