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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Vikings should consider spending on valuable nickel corner position

By Matthew Coller

Screen Shot 2017-02-14 at 3.02.01 PM

If any rappers want to borrow this line, feel free: Nickel corner ain’t nothing to mess with.

In an interview with ESPN during the playoffs, New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick estimated that his team plays nickel or dime packages on around 80% of plays.

Owner/Sr. Vice President of Football Technology/Analytics for the Jacksonville Jaguars Tony Khan – who is a fascinating social media follow – posted this on Instagram about the increasing use of defensive packages with five or more defensive backs:

As Khan notes, the increase use of the nickel package is a reaction to offenses using 11 personnel (one tight end, one running back, three wide receivers) more than ever.

Many of the league’s top receivers like TY Hilton, Larry Fitzgerald and Odell Beckham can be found regularly lining up in the slot. Sometimes teams use a corner to shadow the star while others choose to let their nickel corner battle the star receiver.

When the Vikings matched up with the Arizona Cardinals, nickel corner Captain Munnerlyn, who played 61.5% of snaps last season, matched up against Fitzgerald. However, when Beckham played Minnesota, Xavier Rhodes followed him all over the field.

Munnerlyn, who kept a roll of nickels in his locker, has often joked that the nickel corner is the toughest position to play because he gets no help from the sideline and receivers are constantly running pick plays and crossing routes. According to Pro Football Focus, he was targeted the fourth most of any nickel corner in the NFL last season.

As Munnerlyn prepares to hit the market as an unrestricted free agent, the Vikings will either have to pony up enough to keep him, turn the keys over to second-round pick Mackensie Alexander or look in free agency for a replacement. Star Tribune Vikings reporter Andrew Krammer reported that the team may be interested in K’Wuan Williams, who missed all of last season with an injury but was named to Pro Football Focus’s 2014 All-Rookie team.

PFF ranked Munnerlyn 49th out of 112 qualifying cornerbacks last season. While he allowed a high completion percentage on throws against at 75.6%, according to Football Outsiders he allowed the fewest broken tackles of any defender in the NFL, giving up a broken tackle on just 2.6% of his solo tackles.

Whether the Vikings believe in Alexander is unclear, but head coach Mike Zimmer commented that he needed to improve his understanding of the NFL game, especially in terms of pass interference, before he could see the field more. After his comments, it is hard to believe that Zimmer feels Alexander is ready to take on a hefty task.

Outside of sticking with the status quo and bringing Munnerlyn back, the Vikings could re-sign 38-year-old Terence Newman, who had a terrific 2016 season, to play in a nickel role. The next best option might be another corner who is familiar with Zimmer in New York Giants free agent Leon Hall or pursue Baltimore’s Jerraud Powers.

Speaking of the Giants, their nickel corner Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie was ranked fifth in the NFL last season by PFF. New York invested $35 million over five years on the veteran and his impact was felt. Maybe the wise play for the Vikings would be to convince (with money) one of the better corners on the market to take on a nickel role because it is clear that the base defense in the NFL now includes five defensive backs.

The post Vikings should consider spending on valuable nickel corner position appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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