Since cornerback is one of, if not the biggest position competitions in Vikings training camp, I thought I’d do a mid-training camp stock report, to see who has the best chance of making the roster, who has the best chance to start, and who will play where.
In my eyes, Xavier Rhodes is the best cornerback on this team. He’s also probably the second-best athlete on the team (AP’s #1, of course). His size, speed, strength and overall athleticism are top 3 in the division among cornerbacks. So far in camp, Mike Zimmer seems to have taken a liking to Rhodes, coaching him up a considerably large amount during practice. He also highlighted with the play of camp, laying out for a spectacular interception during the evening scrimmage. He hasn’t had an amazing camp and is still raw, but Rhodes has his outside position (and most receivers) locked down.
I think everyone knows Steeples has zero chance of making the roster. He was on the practice squad for 13 games last season. He was activated for three games at the end of the season (two of which he played in) because the Vikings became paper thin at cornerback. He hasn’t had a good camp, highlighted by his listing as the fifth-string slot CB. Although they don’t list overall cornerback rankings, I would assume he is 10th among all cornerbacks on the team. All Steeples is is a camp body, and because of that he has gotten very limited reps this summer, which can make it hard to evaluate him. Still, stock can’t be up for a guy who will probably be spending this season on his sofa.
James was the Vikings’ 6th round pick in the draft. He was basically drafted solely for his speed; he ran a 4.32 second 40-yard dash while still recovering from a hamstring injury. He was ranked 4th on the depth chart at outside corner, and hasn’t drawn great reports from folks at training camp. I still believe James will make the roster over Derek Cox, for two reasons. One, James is young and raw, and, judging from my personal experience watching him, can develop into a starting cornerback in the NFL. Two, James has blazing speed that would be uber-useful on special teams as a gunner and maybe even as a kick returner.
Jabari Price may turn out to be the biggest surprise of Vikings Training Camp 2014. Price isn’t a big guy, and his speed is above average but by no means punishing. Zimmer and other have raved about him throughout camp, and he is now practicing with the twos, as well as being listed on the depth chart as second string. His tackling ability has been a hit with the coaches, who seem to like scrappy, speedy hard-hitting guys (See Anthony Barr). He has also surprised with his improvement in man coverage, which wasn’t one of his strengths in college. Before camp, I thought Price was a long shot to make the team. Now, he seems to have carved out a roster spot for himself.
Posey, like Steeples, is a camp body. Last summer, the Dolphins cut him in after training camp. The older brother of Texans’ WR DeVier Posey, Julian was then signed by the Browns and played in five games in 2013. He recorded six tackles and getting the start in the last game of the season. He hasn’t been getting a lot of reps as he’s 4th string, so media reports on him have been few and far between. Basically, if you’re 4th string during the third week of training camp, things are not looking up for you. Thanks for bringing our roster to 90, Julian, because that’s really all you were useful for.
Munnerlyn was arguably the biggest free agent Minnesota brought in this offseason. He was out with a leg injury the first week or so of training camp, and there was concern over whether he could lose the competition for the outside job to Josh Robinson (gasp). The release of the depth charts did little to quell the concerns that Captain might be relegated to a role in the nickel package, as he was tied with Robinson for the outside corner spot. But that still probably won’t happen, considering Munnerlyn’s talent and experience, as well as Robinson’s tendency to choke. Munnerlyn hasn’t amazed in practice, but has played well enough to warrant playing with the ones. I think he’ll turn it on in the coming weeks and run away with the starting outside corner spot.
Oh no, this can’t be good. Josh Robinson is in contention for a starting job in the NFL. No, I am not lying to you. Apparently the speedy choke artist has learned a couple things since Jerry Gray and Mike Zimmer took over the reigns, and his move to the outside has helped as well, according to Robinson himself. He was interestingly matched up evenly with Munnerlyn on the depth chart, so Robinson’s still very much in the thick of the race for that outside job. His speed and athleticism everyone was juiced up about when he was drafted in the third round in 2012 haven’t gone anywhere, and I’m hoping he can fulfill his enormous potential this season.
Many folks in the twitterverse and beyond were extremely high on this young cornerback coming out of the 2013 season. He was thrown in at the end of the season and provided the injury-riddled secondary with a burst of energy. His play was promising to play the least, and I thought he would make the roster coming into camp. Surprisingly, though, he was ranked 5th at outside CB, behind two rookies. He may not be a good fit for Zimmer’s system, or maybe all the other cornerbacks are just simply better than him. Still, this is an unexpected fall for Prater.
Sherels must feel relieved, as this is his first training camp in which he doesn’t have to fret about getting cut. Last year, he solidified himself as a top 5 punt returner in the NFL, and undervalued but important position on any team. Like Prater, Sherels shined at the end of last season when he started a couple games. This year, he probably won’t see very much time at cornerback, but should be receiving every punt, and hopefully returning it. He has seen some reps with the twos and a couple with the ones, and is valuable depth in the secondary, as well as a star on special teams.
Cox is one of the guys who has been a noticeable standout this training camp. He continually breaks up several passes each practice, and several people at camp have tweeted about his emergence. He even had a pick-six against Teddy Bridgewater. Still, it could be difficult for the veteran entering his 6th year to make the team, both because of his age and his limited ability on special teams. Guys like Kendall James and Jabari Price could end up taking his roster spot because of their speed, vital on special teams.