We’ve already identified CB Lito Sheppard and WR Bernard Berrian as players (not including obvious stars such as Jared Allen or Brett Favre) who hold the key to the Vikings gaining the extra edge in 2010. Today we go back to the well to select another CB as #3 on our list – Antoine Winfield.
The 5-9, 180-pound defensive playmaker may often be the smallest player on the field, but he also frequently makes the biggest impact for the Vikings defense. He’s known as one of the surest-tackling defenders in the NFL and he also has a knack for the big play. Winfield has registered 15 regular season and playoff INTs and 7 fumble recoveries (FRs) since joining the Vikings in 2004. During the 2006-2008 seasons, #26 helped the Vikings lead the NFL with 15 defensive TDs, 9 INTs and 6 FRs, with Winfield contributing 2 INTs for TDs, a FR for TD, a forced fumble that resulted in a another TD and he also became the 1st Viking to return a blocked FG for a TD, which counts as a special teams score but doesn’t add to the defensive total of 15.
In 2009, Winfield earned his 2nd consecutive Pro Bowl berth. But his season was also impacted by a foot injury he suffered against the Baltimore Ravens in Week 6. Winfield was able to make it back for a critical Week 14 win against the Cincinnati Bengals – perhaps the best game of the season for Winfield – but it was clear the foot injury negatively impacted Winfield for the remainder of the season.
It’s Winfield’s penchant for the big play and also the fact that he enters 2010 off an injury riddled 2009 season that lands him at #3 in this series. The Vikings defense has been a steadily improving and outstanding group under Head Coach Brad Childress and assistant head coach/defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier, but in order for that trend to continue the club will need Winfield to return to his Pro Bowl and playmaking form.
Adding to the importance of Winfield regaining his form is the fact that fellow starting CB Cedric Griffin is also coming back from injury. If Winfield can nail down his starting CB spot, a deep CB stable that includes Asher Allen, Benny Sapp and Lito Sheppard should be able to stem the tide until Griffin is able to return to the lineup.
A healthy and effective Winfield will spark the Vikings defense and give the club that extra edge for 2010.
Tags: Antoine Winfield
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