Throughout the course of the 2020 NFL season, the Minnesota Vikings had a handful of weaknesses on defense, most notably at cornerback. Following an offseason that saw some key pieces depart in free agency and behind injuries to numerous players within that group, Minnesota’s defense took an unfortunate step back.
One glaring area of need on that side of the ball came at the cornerback position, with the Vikings beginning the year with a very young defensive back group, something Minnesota head coach Mike Zimmer hasn’t featured on his teams throughout his career. With that youth and inexperience at cornerback, opposing teams often took advantage of the passing game and giving Minnesota fits week-in and week-out.
This off-season going into the 2021 campaign, Zimmer and company made it a priority to shore up and improve one of the biggest weaknesses on defense. And with the new year inching closer, the Vikings have completely retooled the back end of the defense to feature more experience and talent on the depth chart.
How the Minnesota Vikings Retooled Their Cornerback Group
Taking Advantage of Free Agent Market
At the start of free agency and even as recent as the last few weeks, the Vikings have been active on the free-agent market so far this off-season, mainly at the cornerback position.
In March, Minnesota kicked off the off-season acquisitions by signing veteran cornerback Patrick Peterson, who will immediately boost the defensive back unit with his talent and veteran presence.
After trading away Mike Hughes in May, the Vikings most recently signed cornerbacks Parry Nickerson, Tye Smith, Bashaud Breeland, and Amari Henderson to bring the total number of cornerbacks on the roster to 11.
After having somewhat of a depleted cornerback group in 2020, Minnesota has spent a majority of the off-season trying to add to that unit, and the Vikings activity on the free-agent market has been the main source of doing just that.
Mixing Youth With Experience
To begin the 2020 season, Minnesota featured a young cornerback group featuring Hughes, Holton Hill, Kris Boyd, Harrison Hand, and rookies Jeff Gladney and Cameron Dantzler.
Hughes, who was initially viewed as the top cornerback on the roster, missed most of the season with injuries and ended up playing in just four games by the end of the year. That left a plethora of youth to take things over in the back end of the defense, which provided the Vikings with frustration and inconsistency all season long.
Of the cornerbacks that were on Minnesota’s roster in 2020, they combined to start in just nine NFL games throughout their careers. The lack of experience was something the Vikings didn’t want to have to deal with yet again this year, and the veteran additions have addressed that issue.
As the roster looks right now, Minnesota’s cornerbacks have started a combined 303 games in their NFL careers, showcasing an increase in career starts from 2020 to 2021 of more than 3,000%.
The cornerbacks remaining on the roster from last season could still provide the Vikings with solid play in the new year beginning this fall, but the veteran experience will no doubt provide a lift to the defense in Minnesota. Following a busy off-season shoring up that unit, the Vikings have officially retooled their secondary in hopes of establishing one of the top defenses in the NFL in 2021.
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