Vikings CB Antoine Winfield missed 11 games in 2011 due to injury. The Vikings defense finished the season ranked last in passer rating allowed, third-last in points allowed, 28th in passing yards allowed and 21st in total defense.
Winfield has played in every game this season. The Vikings defense has made significant improvement in each of those categories, jumping up 17 spots in points allowed and passer rating allowed, 13 spots in yards allowed and 12 spots in passing yards allowed.
It’s no coincidence that the improvement corresponded with Winfield’s return. Certainly other factors have contributed to the defense’s improvement, such as an infusion of youth into the group, a defensive line rotation that is keeping starters fresh through the game, LB Chad Greenway leading the League in tackling, plus more. But Winfield’s presence in the lineup ranks up near the top when it comes to reasons the Vikings defense has improved this season.
Through 6 games, Winfield is 2nd on the team with 50 tackles, 3rd in pass breakups and 1st in both tackles for loss (7.0) and INTs (2). His best performance of the season came last week in Washington, where he led the team with 9 tackles, had 3.0 TFLs and registered an INT.
While meeting with reporters on Thursday, Vikings Defensive Coordinator Alan Williams said that’s “as good as I’ve seen anyone play in a long time.”
As mentioned above, a big reason for the Vikings big improvement on defense this season has been the play of younger players. Williams pointed out that Winfield has made a positive impact on those young players.
“It has a huge impact,” Williams said of Winfield’s leadership on the defense. “It’s good because he’s an older guy that comes out to practice, the way he prepares, the way he practices, the way he goes about his business, you look at him and say, ‘You know what? That’s what a professional looks like. That’s how a professional prepares. And these are the results of the way a guy prepares.’ I think it has an impact, not just on the young guys, but the older guys, too.”
What They Say
Williams pointed out that both young and veteran players respect Winfield as a leader. A pair of defensive starters supported Williams’ assertion.
After the team’s Week 2 loss to Indianapolis, Winfield felt compelled to speak to the team. His message was heard loud and clear.
“He’s one of the leaders on the team, the oldest guy on the team, so what he had to say was very pertinent,” DE Jared Allen said. “We’ll leave it at that. What’s said in that team room is for our ears only. But it was good.”
Rookie S Harrison Smith spoke about his respect for the 14-year veteran, too.
“There’s not one guy on this team who doesn’t respect Antoine and look to him for how he does things,” Smith said. “So when he tells us what he sees, we’re going to listen with the understanding that he knows best.”
Tags: Alan Williams, Antoine Winfield, Harrison Smith, Jared Allen
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