Throughout the offseason and training camp, one position battle that was constantly analyzed was the nickel back/3rd corner position. The Vikings drafted Asher Allen in the 3rd round, signed Karl Paymah during free agency and brought veteran Benny Sapp back after he played well in 2008.
Prevailing thought was that one of those 3 players would win the job and would be the beneficiary of the vast majority of the playing time alongside starters Cedric Griffin and Antoine Winfield, relegating the other 2 players to either inactive duty and/or primarily special teams responsibility.
Well, as is often the case with prevailing thought, it turned out to be all wrong. Sapp, by all appearances, “won” that preseason position battle, but he hasn’t been the only member of that trio to contribute to the Vikings this season.
When Winfield went down with a foot injury in Week 6, the trio of DBs stepped in immediately and the Vikings defense actually hasn’t lost a step. Since Week 6, the Vikings rushing defense has climbed from 9th to 3rd, the passing defense has gone from 24th to 21st and the overall defense has gone from 18th to 12th. Perhaps most importantly, the Vikings scoring defense has remained #2 in the NFL.
Depth in the secondary has been key for the Vikings, clearly. Since Winfield’s injury, the trio of Allen, Paymah and Sapp have done more than just weather the storm.
“I think ‘weather’ means that you are just holding on, surviving,” Childress said on Monday. “I think that they have really embraced it. I think that it’s the old ‘opportunity knocks’ and I have seen those guys grab hold of it and really get a chance to compete.”
Childress said he’s noticed good practice habits out of the Vikings reserve DBs and those habits, along with the players’ versatility, have allowed them to fill in more-than-capably for Winfield, who was a Pro Bowler last year.
Allen and Sapp can play both the outside corner position and nickel back. Paymah might be more of an outside corner player, but he, along with Allen and Paymah, can also contribute on special teams.
In addition to their skills, positive practice habits and versatility, Childress also said their attitude has been important to their ability to contribute this season.
“Boy, you see it day in and day out,” Childress commented. “I think they just embraced it. Where Asher used to be sitting in my office, he used to be one of those eight guys (that was inactive on game day). He was going to be a guy that was down and he was down about being down, but I just promised him that somewhere along the line opportunity is going to knock.
“If you feel like you are getting in the co-pilot seat, if you feel like you are kind of riding along and you don’t keep that mental edge, you are going to snooze at the wrong time and somebody is going to say ‘you’re in.’ I think those guys have done a really good job of attacking that thing.”
Tags: Antoine Winfield, Asher Allen, Benny Sapp, Karl Paymah
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 9 Comments »