For the next several weeks I will be breaking down the Viking’s roster, evaluating the players and letting you know what to expect from each position.
By Jordan Wright
If you have any questions or comments feel free to write me at email@example.com, follow me on Twitter @SkolJWright or find me on Facebook at Jordan Wright. All stats are courtesy of Pro Football Focus unless noted otherwise.
Up next in this roster breakdown is the cornerback position. The Vikings had decent cornerback play last season, with Xavier Rhodes leading the way and establishing himself as a premier corner in the league. Cornerback depth is probably as good as it’s ever been, and there are going to be some hard cuts to be made before the season starts.
There is no doubt who one of the starting cornerbacks will be this season. Xavier Rhodes was far and away the best corner on the Viking’s roster last season. According to Pro Football Focus (PFF), Rhodes was ranked 29 out of a possible 108 cornerbacks who played at least 25 percent of the snaps last season. While that number seems low, that was only his second season and first under Mike Zimmer so he was learning his second defense in two years. Generally corners take time to get acclimated to the speed of the NFL, so look for Rhodes to take another step forward this season.
Starting opposite Xavier will be Terence Newman. Newman turns is 36 years old and is in the twilight of his career. He has worked with Head Coach Mike Zimmer in Dallas and in Cincinnati, so Newman understands this system. While Newman was only brought in to provide depth and a mentor to the young cornerbacks on the roster, I believe he will be asked to start until Trae Waynes is ready.
With Xavier and Terence starting at the outside corner positions, it’ll be Captain Munnerlyn who comes in and plays the nickel or third corner spot. Munnerlyn is 27 years old and played his first five seasons in Carolina before signing in Minnesota last off season. Munnerlyn was ranked 37 at the cornerback position last season, and should look to improve on that ranking this season.
A player I have personally liked since the Vikings drafted him is Josh Robinson. Robinson was ranked 32, which was only a few spots behind Xavier Rhodes and a few spots ahead of Captain Munnerlyn. Had Robinson not gotten injured, he would have been competing with Newman for the starting spot opposite Rhodes. Unfortunately for Robinson, he partially tore his pectoral muscle this offseason and will more than likely start off the season on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list.
Rookie Trae Waynes was drafted by the Vikings in the first round of this year’s draft. Waynes was drafted into a great situation because the Vikings have Rhodes, Munnerlyn and Newman who can start, allowing Waynes to get comfortable with the NFL speed before being thrown in the fire. Most fans I speak with expect Waynes to come in and immediately be an impact player. While I like Waynes’ potential, I believe it will take him a couple years to put it all together. So please, temper your expectations slightly.
On the bubble:
Now that the starters and primary backups are finalized, it’s time for the hard part. The Vikings have a total of 11 cornerbacks on the roster as it sits right now, but only five or six of them will make it to the final 53 man roster. We have already established the three starters and two primary backups, so that leaves the following six players to battle for the final spot: Jalil Carter, Justin Coleman, Shaun Prater, Jabari Price, Marcus Sherels and DeMarcus Van Dyke. Luckily for one of these players, the Vikings will carry an extra corner on the roster until Josh Robinson returns from injury.
Sherels is now entering his fifth season with the Vikings after being an undrafted rookie out of Minnesota. Always a long shot to make the roster, Sherels has stuck with the team because of his punt return abilities. If he can prove he’s the best punt returner on the team, Sherels will be back next year.
Between the remaining corners on the roster battling for a spot, Jabari Price could be a name to keep an eye on. Price was drafted last year and made the roster because of his abilities on special teams. While I believe Coleman, Prater and Van Dyke are simply players the Vikings brought into camp and don’t stand a realistic chance to make the roster, you never know what can happen. Every once in while the lightbulb goes on for a player and he puts it all together. It will be interesting to see if that happens to any players on the bubble this year.