Last week’s entry introducing the “Gaining The Extra Edge” series generated 42 comments, an impressive number considering this is the slowest part of the NFL calendar. So before we get into Part 1 of the series, I wanted to thank everyone who submitted a comment and also encourage everyone to share comments and thoughts after each part of the series going forward.
I did briefly tally up your votes for who should be included in this series and the 2 top vote getters were RB Toby Gerhart and S Tyrell Johnson. You’ll have to check out the “Gaining The Extra Edge” series this week to see if either of those guys are included. Other top vote getters included DE Brian Robison, S Jamarca Sanford and S Madieu Williams.
Let’s get to it…#5 in our series of players who hold the key to the Vikings gaining the extra edge is CB Lito Sheppard. The Vikings acquired Sheppard the day before the 2010 NFL Draft via free agency and his addition to the roster immediately bolstered a CB corps that quite frankly needed some bolstering because of injuries.
Both starting CBs Cedric Griffin and Antoine Winfield enter the 2010 season coming off of significant injuries and it’s possible that Griffin may not be ready to go for Week 1. That’s where Sheppard comes in. A 9th year veteran who was selected by the Philadelphia Eagles in the 1st round of the 2002 draft, Sheppard clearly has the pedigree to step into the starting lineup if need be.
Sheppard, who stands at 5-10 and 194 pounds, is a 2-time Pro Bowler (2004, 2006) and was also an All-Pro selection in 2004. He has 284 tackles, 19 INTs and 2.0 sacks in 104 career games (70 starts). He’s also the 1st player in NFL history to register 2 INT returns of more than 100 yards, notching both returns against the Dallas Cowboys. That is very good production and numbers like that will help the Vikings pass defense improve again in 2010.
But there’s a reason a player with Sheppard’s skill set and past production was available this offseason. As you can see, 104 games in 8 complete seasons averages out to 13 games per year, indicating Sheppard has missed time due to injury. Sheppard has had 3 seasons cut short by injury and he’ll need to stay away from the injury bug to be a contributor for the Vikings in 2010.
In addition, Sheppard was traded by the Eagles to the NY Jets in February of 2009. After the Eagles signed free agent CB Asante Samuel in 2008, Sheppard saw his playing time reduced. Eventually he was shipped to the Jets for a 5th round pick in the 2009 draft and a conditional pick in the 2010 draft. The Jets released him following the 2009 season, which made him available to the Vikings.
All of that being said, it’s clear to me Sheppard’s union with the Vikings makes a ton of sense. He should be sufficiently motivated to play well and he joins a team with a need at CB. He also joins a team with a familiar coaching staff – both Head Coach Brad Childress and assistant head coach/defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier were with Sheppard in Philadelphia.
It all sets up nicely for Sheppard and the Vikings, which is why Lito is #5 on our list of players who will help the Vikings gain the extra edge in 2010.
Tags: Lito Sheppard
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