Coming off a season that had the Vikings defense ranked 19th in passing yards allowed and just 26th in INTs, the new-look secondary for the Purple seems to be making strides in improving those rankings for the Vikings 50th season.
During the offseason, the Vikings acquired a pair of CBs to infuse competition and a promising future to a bolstered secondary unit – 9-year veteran Lito Sheppard and rookie Chris Cook.
Throughout the first 3 days of training camp, Sheppard has been involved with the 1st and 2nd-team defenses by rotating with 2nd-year CB Asher Allen. This weekend’s practices saw Allen taking reps with the 1st-team base package while Sheppard worked in the 2nd-team nickel package with both CBs rotating with each other often. This rotation between the pair of CBs may or may not be an indication of how playing time will be distributed during the season, but for the time being both players are seeing significant time with each defensive package.
“I think it’s more of counting reps and keeping them to a minimum,” Sheppard said when asked about the rotation. “I don’t know what they [coaching staff] got planned, I just go out there and do the best I can and be out there on day one.”
Even with Sheppard coming into his 1st-year with the Vikings, the 2-time Pro Bowler feels confident in his ability to contribute to the team’s defense to help improve off of last season. When asked about what is important when joining a new team, Sheppard was focused on the team aspect.
“I think it’s getting my teammates getting to believe in what I can do,” Sheppard said. “Me getting the feel of everybody and vice versa. I’m pretty familiar with the system. I’ve been in this type of system for seven years of my career so I got a real good feel about that but it’s just getting the other guy’s confidence in me and I can get the job done.”
Vikings Head Coach Brad Childress praised Sheppard’s ability to adapt to a new defensive scheme early in training camp and feels that he’ll be able to pick up the system quickly.
“I think the biggest thing he’s doing is getting back up to our kind of defense,” Childress said of Sheppard. “He has some familiarity with Les’ defense. He’s just learning some of the nuances. He’s another quick study guy, he’s played in a couple of different systems now. He’s got man-cape abilities and there’s another guy who’s got instincts.”
Sheppard joins another seasoned veteran on the Vikings secondary unit with 12-year veteran Antoine Winfield, who is coming off an ankle injury that plagued him throughout the 2009 campaign. The opportunity to play with another experienced CB had #29 excited about what the pair can bring to the table in 2010.
“It’s good to have a chance to play with him,” Sheppard spoke of Winfield. “I think with both of our experience we can definitely take this secondary to the next level.”
As Mike mentioned earlier, rookie CB Chris Cook had a monster day on the practice fields Sunday afternoon and with that in mind I’ll have a few more words from Sheppard on his impressions of the rookie CB as well as Childress’ comments on the matter.
But for now I’m off to Grandma’s house where I’ve got a slab of ribs waiting for me on the dinner table.
Tags: Lito Sheppard
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