Minnesota Vikings co-defensive coordinator Adam Zimmer admitted that trying to put a name to a face has been a focus of OTAs over the past two weeks.
“Right now it’s just trying to learn some of those new faces,” Zimmer said with a laugh, per the team’s website. “They’re trying to get acclimated into the system. The good news this year is that we’re out on the field with them and we get chances to work with them.”
The cornerbacks group has presented the most need for introductions after the Vikings signed six new corners this offseason, three of which were signed in the past two weeks in Tye Smith, Bashaud Breeland and Amari Henderson.
Co-defensive coordinator and newly appointed assistant head coach Andre Patterson found that the added veteran experience on the practice field is helping transform one of the most inexperienced units in the league from a season ago.
However, he’s found even more to gain from the competition in-house at TCO Performance Center.
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‘They’re All Fighting For a Job’
Patterson spoke on the added competition at cornerback in practice that is sure to be one of the most contested position battles throughout training camp this summer.
“Competition makes everybody compete and makes everybody strive to improve because they’re all fighting for a job And that’s going to cause everyone to improve,” Patterson said. “That’s going to cause everyone to see who’s getting better, and the cream is going to rise to the top. So, to me, that’s how you get better, when you have a lot of competition.”
The crème de la crème of Minnesota’s cornerbacks group has already begun to bubble.
Patrick Peterson, the former eight-time Pro Bowl Arizona Cardinals cornerback, is cemented in the starting lineup after signing a fully guaranteed one-year deal in March. Former Vikings 2016 second-round pick Mackensie Alexander, who spent a year away with the Cincinnati Bengals before being re-signed in March, is poised to take the reins as the team’s starting slot corner once again.
However, there is competition beyond the team’s first two additions at cornerback in free agency.
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Super Bowl-Winning Corner Expects to Compete
Breeland, who signed a one-year deal a week ago, is coming off two consecutive Super Bowl appearances and won a ring with the Kansas City Chiefs two seasons ago.
At the time of his signing, Pioneer Press reporter Chris Tomasson said that Breeland expects to compete for a starting outside corner spot, per a source.
Peterson has been considered cemented in his role after the Vikings guaranteed an $8 million to the veteran corner this season. Second-year corner Cameron Dantzler, drafted in the third round in 2020, appears to have competition for his starting role in Breeland.
Other veteran signings like Parry Nickerson, Smith and Henderson have bolstered the group and added pressure to perform.
Sure, 2020 fifth-round rookie Harrison Hand, who has been seeing first-team reps in practice due to Dantzler and Breeland’s limited activity due to injuries, isn’t supplanting Peterson or the apex corners anytime soon.
However, this year’s depth and talent in the cornerbacks room ups the ante for players to perform well — contrary to last year where the Vikings, ravaged by injury, were signing guys off the street to field a full group a season ago.
“You’ve got guys out there who’ve played in NFL games, so they have experience,” Patterson said. “They’re not going through it for the first time like we did a year ago. But I think the other thing that’s very important is you have a lot of competition.”