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Article: In Search Of: Interceptions

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#1 Bo Mitchell

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Posted 20 August 2014 - 05:34 AM

No NFL team has fewer interceptions over the last three seasons than the Minnesota Vikings. They have only managed to pick off 30 passes since 2011. For the mathematically impaired, that’s an average of 10 interceptions per year. For the NFL-impaired, that’s not good at all.The photo above is of a startled-looking Marcus Sherels intercepting a pass against the Baltimore Ravens last Dec. 8. Obviously, he looks so startled because, frankly, anyone associated with the Vikings the past three seasons is shocked to a certain extent at the sight of an interception by someone wearing a Vikings uniform. It’s like witnessing a sober Packers fan on a Sunday during the football season.

That was Sherels’ only interception of the season and one of only three (!) interceptions by Vikings cornerbacks in 2013. Three. As in one more than two. That’s just absurd given that record numbers of passes are thrown in the NFL every year now and cornerbacks are usually right alongside the intended targets of most of those throws. By the way, the other two Vikings corners to intercept passes last year were A.J. Jefferson, who’s no longer on the team, and Shaun Prater, who’s a longshot to make the team this year. Sherels himself is on the roster bubble again this August.

Xavier Rhodes is being positioned as the Vikings’ No. 1 corner… only he didn’t have any interceptions as a rookie last season. Captain Munnerlyn, who was signed out of free agency following five seasons with the Carolina Panthers, is slated to start opposite Rhodes. Munnerlyn has seven interceptions in his career. That’s a little more than one per season, which qualifies him as a ball hawk among Vikings corners.

So what are the Vikings going to do about this interception dilemma? After all, something must be done. Takeaways lead directly to wins. Turnover ratio is one of the most telling statistics in the NFL.

The answer seems fairly simple – beyond just, you know, catching more passes thrown by the opponents. It’s all about defensive scheme.

Vikings fans were ecstatic when they learned that new head coach Mike Zimmer, whose specialty seems to be coaching up (and occasionally using “colorful” language towards) defensive backs, does not employ or probably even condone the Cover-2 defense. We’ve seen enough of the Cover-2 in Minnesota. It was a favorite of the previous administration and led to pillow-soft coverage.

The new name of the game on the Vikings defense is aggression. Sure, it might get you burnt sometimes, especially against some of the uber-talented receivers the Vikings have to contend with in the loaded NFC North. But more aggressive man-to-man coverage should also result in fewer easy receptions, more passes defensed and, by God, more interceptions.

One of the most shocking developments out of the Vikings’ final week of training camp in Mankato was not the fact that Teddy Bridgewater threw five interceptions in the span of two days, it was that the Vikings intercepted five passes in two days. I don’t think they keep records of such things (nor should they) but I’m guessing we haven’t seen an outburst of turnovers like that in Mankato for the better part of a decade.

Of course, training camp interceptions mean about as much as training camp touchdowns. Preseason interceptions are a little more meaningful, and new Vikings safety Kurt Coleman picked one off in the preseason opener against the Raiders to the delight of the Helga Horn-adorned faithful at TCF Bank Stadium.

Half of the Vikings’ interceptions last year came from linebackers and defensive linemen. That percentage has to change, and really should change in Zimmer’s defense. By the way, the Cincinnati Bengals intercepted 34 passes the last two seasons under Zimmer in the same scheme he’s transplanting to the Twin Cities. They had 20 picks last year, tied for fifth in the NFL.

Vikings safety Harrison Smith seems to have a nose for the football, having accounted for five of the team’s 22 interceptions over the past two seasons. He should be good for another handful of interceptions this season.

However, the biggest uptick in picks needs to come from the corners. Rhodes needs to step up in year two and begin picking off passes. Let’s start with one and let’s hope it comes in the first month of the season or else the kid might start wondering if he’s ever going to get one. Munnerlyn needs at least two or three as well.

Opposing quarterbacks have felt too comfortable throwing at the Vikings’ secondary the last three years. If that doesn’t change, this defense is in for another long season of getting sliced and diced by the likes of Aaron Rodgers, Jay Cutler and Matthew Stafford.

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#2 mike wants wins

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Posted 20 August 2014 - 07:19 AM

No one in this roster seems to know what to do when the ball is in the air.

#3 Bo Mitchell

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Posted 20 August 2014 - 08:19 AM

No one in this roster seems to know what to do when the ball is in the air.

 

We've seen a lot of drops by Vikings defenders in recent seasons, huh? Maybe Zimmer can coach that, too!


#4 Nick Nelson

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Posted 20 August 2014 - 08:52 AM

Only three picks total last year?? Man, I didn't realize it was that bad. I think subbing out Cook for Munnerlyn will help a lot in that regard. Captain strikes me as a ball hawk.


#5 Brock Beauchamp

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Posted 20 August 2014 - 08:55 AM

Only three picks total last year?? Man, I didn't realize it was that bad.

 

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#6 Seth Stohs

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Posted 20 August 2014 - 09:06 AM

I miss Isaac Holt!! He had a ton of interceptoins before he went to Dallas in the Herschel Walker trade. 

 

Harrison Smith had several the year before when he was healthy, so that may help. 

 

I also think that the defensive line has a lot to do with this too. I think some is scheme, some is talent, and a lot will depend on pressure put on the QB. 


#7 Bo Mitchell

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Posted 20 August 2014 - 09:08 AM

Again, that's three picks by cornerbacks last year. They had a whopping 12 as a team!

 

I miss Carl Lee.


#8 Bo Mitchell

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Posted 20 August 2014 - 09:27 AM

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Brock gets it.


#9 Joe Oberle

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Posted 20 August 2014 - 09:32 AM

I miss Carl Lee, too. Met him at a kegger just off the MSU campus back in the day. Good guy. Was glad he made the team and performed well. I don't think there is any way the Vikings can't improve their interception totals this year. Laws of probability say it must be so. So many passes in the air. I am predicting double-digit picks this year (which isn't saying a whole lot). But with the new defense and different personnel, it will happen.


#10 Seth Stohs

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Posted 20 August 2014 - 11:03 AM

My bad... Harrison Smith is obviously a safety. That said, his return adds a very solid DB to the mix that will hopefully allow for the CBs to do what they need to do.