Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports
In 2011, the Vikings ranked last in the NFL in Football Outsiders’ pass-defense ranks, based on their proprietary DVOA metric. This was a critical problem the Vikings needed to solve, and 2012 saw an improvement both because of increased talent and fuller participation from their starting players.
But that didn’t mean the defense was great either.
This past season, the Vikings ranked 24th in pass defense. Hardly impressive, but it shouldn’t be surprising, given that they allowed the 13th-most touchdowns per pass and grabbed the third fewest interceptions per pass last year.
Certainly, the addition of Harrison Smith and the improvement of Jamarca Sanford helped, as did Antoine Winfield's and Chris Cook’s increasing presences.
But with Winfield gone and questions with Josh Robinson, the Vikings will want Xavier Rhodes to have a big impact as soon as possible, especially since Chris Cook has yet to show his full potential or play a full season.
Josh Robinson will need to step up as well and prove that he can be more than just the flashes he’s shown so far.
Behind Cook, Robinson and Rhodes is Jacob Lacey, who looks to be an excellent nickel corner that could be critical depth for the Vikings.
Aside from those four, there are issues at cornerback, and Brandon Burton or A.J. Jefferson will have to look more comfortable or lose their spots on the team.
Marcus Sherels is a good punt returner, but he’ll be pushed by newcomers Roderick Williams and Greg McCoy as well as Bobby Felder, who was on the practice squad last year.
At safety, Jamarca Sanford could retain the starting spot after his good performance the year before, but Mistral Raymond figures to battle for the spot, as he was named the starter at the beginning of the previous season.
Harrison Smith’s former teammate, Robert Blanton, looked good in his limited time on the field. His transition from cornerback looks to be working smoothly, and he could lock down the fourth cornerback spot.
Behind him is special teams standout Andrew Sendejo, who earned a spot off the practice squad.
Undrafted free agent Brandan Bishop from North Carolina State should be able to challenge him for that spot, as should Darius Eubanks from Georgia Southern.