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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Newman’s versatility could give Vikings’ defense new wrinkles

By Matthew Coller

On Wednesday, Terence Newman and Andrew Sendejo swapped jerseys for the day and Newman filled in for Sendejo’s position on the field.

Newman, 40, has remained a quality NFL player through age 39, which is virtually unheard of for defensive backs historically. His encyclopedic knowledge of the game has allowed Newman to stay one step ahead of younger opponents and in 2017 it allowed him to switch to — and succeed at — starting nickel corner.

According to Pro Football Focus, when opponents threw at Newman during the regular season, they went 28-for-51 with 293 yards, two touchdowns and one interception, good for a 76.6 rating. He was on the field for 55.8 percent of total plays.

“His versatility in the secondary, everybody knows about it,” defensive coordinator George Edwards said. “He’s had to start games for us with two days of preparation to do it. That is a hat that he can wear. We are glad we got him.”

It’s plausible the Vikings simply wanted to see Newman take reps at safety to keep him sharp, but there might also be an opportunity for Mike Zimmer to add some new wrinkles to his already-strong defense.

Zimmer said following the Vikings’ selection of Mike Hughes in the first round that hew as considering some packages with different combinations of DBs than he’s used in the past.

“Quite honestly in today’s NFL, with as much throwing as is going on, I could see four corners in the game at one time,” Zimmer said.

One of the reasons the Vikings’ head coach has had longevity in the NFL is his ability to adapt, so despite the Vikings’ No. 1 ranking, he might be wise to make such a tweak. Last offseason, we looked at how difficult it was for top defenses to repeat their previous success. As of last year, there were only three instances since 2007 of a team remaining in the top five for three years in a row.

So it would make sense for Zimmer to make tweaks even when he’s coming off season where he ranked at the top.

There might be an opportunity to use five DBs in a hybrid dime package with Harrison Smith lining up in a linebacker position and Anthony Barr on the line of scrimmage.

Last year, Smith lined up in the box on 227 snaps, according to Pro Football Focus, with 115 snaps coming on passing plays. Newman only took 16 snaps at safety.

“It’s fun being back there with a guy that has that much experience at every different level, I’m always trying to learn from him whether he’s talking about corner or safety or whatever,” Smith said on Thursday. “He just loves football. He loves learning everything about football. He can sit in the classroom and not get any reps at safety and know the key and exactly where to line up.”

Newman’s role might also be determined by the progress of third-year corner Mackensie Alexander, who struggled last offseason and lost the job to the veteran. In a smattering of snaps throughout the regular season (278 in the slot) Alexander performed well. He worked with the first team at nickel corner during minicamp while Hughes plays with the second team. If each of the Vikings’ recent draft picks takes a step forward, Zimmer will have more chess pieces to use as his team faces a tough schedule of quarterbacks this year, including Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Carson Wentz and Tom Brady.

The post Newman’s versatility could give Vikings’ defense new wrinkles appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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