If you watched the Minnesota Vikings much in 2011 (I did, and it sucked), you don't need a reminder that the club wasn't very prolific when it came to intercepting passes.
But in case you did need a reminder, Viking Update's John Holler has this little ditty for you.
It's not a pretty picture and Holler's thesis is that the Vikings need to develop a ball hawking mentality among its secondary if the team wants to avoid another 3-13 debacle in 2012.
It's an interesting viewpoint, and you can't argue that the Vikings will be a better defense and a better team if they can up their paltry interception total of eight in 2011. But can this secondary do it?
That might be difficult. While the Vikings shook up their secondary, the talent that is on the roster now and set to play significant roles for the team do not have a track record that suggests Minnesota is going to suddenly morph into a gang of opportunistic thieves. So let's look at the players who will likely make up the 2012 Minnesota Vikings secondary to see what their body of work can tell us about the Vikes chances of intercepting a few more passes in 2012.
Chris Cook: The starting right cornerback has yet to intercept a pass in two NFL seasons (one caveat – he's only suited up for 12 of a possible 32 games during that period) and some writers are expecting a breakout season from him in 2012. But even at the University of Virginia, Cook was no interception machine. His best total was in his 2009 senior season when he picked off four passes. In his three other years with the U of V, he intercepted one pass per season.
Antoine Winfield: As great a player as #26 has been for the Vikes, he's never intercepted more than four passes in a season and hasn't picked off more than two since 2006. At 35 years of age, and with the Vikings trying to limit his snaps a bit, don't expect Winfield to reverse that trend.
Chris Carr: If healthy, Carr will play a lot. But again, his playing history doesn't suggest he's going to be a source of a lot of interceptions. He's had just six in seven NFL seasons.
Josh Robinson: The Vikings have high hopes for the third round pick (so do Viking fans). However, even as he was selected as a first-team all conference player at the University of Central Florida his last two years, he only intercepted two passes each season.
Zack Bowman: In 2009, the ex-Bear picked off six passes in a starting role. But that seems like eons ago for Bowman, who lost his starting job in Chicago and was running with the third-stringers during the Viking OTAs this spring. Bowman might not even make the team. Even if he does, his role will be limited unless injuries hit the Vikings secondary hard.
Marcus Sherels: The University of Minnesota product was the Vikings main punt returner in 2011, and unless a number of corners drop dead this season, that's where Sherels figures to spend most of his time in 2012. As a dime back in the Vikings porous secondary last year, Sherels didn't intercept a pass - or come close to intercepting one, if memory serves.
Harrison Smith: Everyone expects the Notre Dame product to be the starting free safety this fall. He did not, however, intercept a pass during his senior season at South Bend (although it's fair to point out he picked off SEVEN passes in his junior year.)
Mistral Raymond: It's hard to figure where Raymond fits right now. He ended 2011 starting at free safety, but that was based on necessity, not performance. Now he's listed as Smith's backup on the Vikings depth chart. And I've read he may win the strong safety job in training camp. Wherever he ends up, Raymond probably isn't going to turn into Ed Reed. He picked off one pass in 2011. He'll do well to equal that total in 2012.
Jamarca Sanford: And the Minnesota Vikings interception leader in 2011 was .... Jamarca Sanford? Yes, that's correct, and yet Sanford played so poorly last season he may not be able to keep his starting job this season. In fact, if he does keep his starting job, that's a sign the Vikings 2012 secondary might not be any better than the Vikings 2011 secondary. Starting or not starting, Sanford will be lucky to match his 2011 interception total.
Robert Blanton: The Notre Dame grad was consistent – if not spectacular – when it came to picking off opposing passes during his Fighting Irish career. He intercepted two passes in each of his four seasons at South Bend. A cornerback in college, the Vikings are turning Blanton into a safety and the talk is he could beat out Sanford and Raymond for the strong safety job. But would you bet on a rookie fifth round draft pick - playing the kind of "take-no-chances" philosophy the Vikings Cover Two defensive system asks of its safeties - picking off more than a pass or two next season? I wouldn't.
Look at that list of players above and tell me the Vikings are going to reverse their interception fortunes in 2012. I believe the unit will be improved compared to the sorry crew Minnesota had to trot out for most games in 2011. But I don't think that improvement is going to translate into a lot of picks.The Vikings Cover Two system has something to do with that, as the goal seems to be to play zone, keep the play in front of you and tackle well rather than jump routes and take chances. However, the talent at the Vikings disposal also suggests the team will continue to drive its fans crazy with their inability to pick the pockets of opposing quarterbacks. I hope I'm wrong.