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Analyzing Position Battles – Nickel Back

Posted by Mike Wobschall on July 20, 2009 – 12:09 pm

Antoine Winfield and Cedric Griffin have the starting CB positions on lock down (barring injury, knock on wood). But a defense always has more than 2 starting-caliber CBs on the roster. In fact, many plays require a defense to have 3 or more solid CBs on the field at a time.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at the Vikings nickel back situation. This will be a hotly-contested training camp battle, and one that will be vital to any success the Vikings defense will have this season.

We’ll begin with Marcus McCauley. His time with the Vikings so far has been a bit tumultuous. He was a 3rd round pick in 2007 and had a nice rookie season, but then inconsistent play and injuries derailed him a bit last year. But perhaps things are looking up for him now. With Winfield absent during OTAs and minicamps this offseason, McCauley took most of the 1st team reps. This doesn’t mean he’s locked the job down or is even a favorite, but it does make sense to note who filled in for a starter.

There are 3 other serious contenders for this job. They are Benny Sapp, Karl Paymah and Asher Allen. The Vikings coaching staff liked enough of what they saw from Sapp last year to bring him back this year. He was re-signed this past offseason. Sapp was an interception machine during training camp a year ago, and a similar performance this year in training camp may be enough to give him the nickel job full-time. Paymah was brought in from Denver as a free agent. He has good speed, lots of special teams experience and a big desire to transcend the role of a special teams player and become a regular contributor on defense. Allen was a 3rd round draft pick this year and was a standout during his time at the University of Georgia. He doesn’t have protoypical Cover 2 CB size, but neither does Antoine Winfield.

Lastly, we must mention Charles Gordon, who is recovering from a serious ankle injury, as well as Marcus Walker, who is one of a few young players who will compete hard to make the Vikings roster. Gordon fulfilled multiple roles for the Vikings last season before his injury. Aside from being the team’s 3rd CB, he also contributed in the return game. If he can get back to his normal playing ability after the injury, then he’s the favorite for the nickel job. But at this point there’s no guarantee that’ll happen.

Prediction: This position battle won’t be determined until late in the preseason, but right now I’m thinking Sapp and Allen will be in the mix as the regular season approaches.


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5 Responses to “Analyzing Position Battles – Nickel Back”

  1. By PurplePeopleEater on Jul 20, 2009 | Reply

  2. By Nam Huynh on Jul 21, 2009 | Reply

    Sapp did well last season. I can see him start the season as the nickel, and as the season progresses, Allen can start to get more looks.

  3. By optimisticskeptic on Jul 21, 2009 | Reply

    I like Sapp, but I recall a couple of blown coverages that ended in 3rd and longs being converted. Seems like he’s a liability in nickel situations, probably better suited to take the #1 with a safety over the top? IDK hopefully he can adjust his eagerness for the pick in management situations, because he seems to have a lot of potential.

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