How terrifying is The Vikings Corner Conundrum?

November 13, 2022; Orchard Park, New York, USA; Minnesota Vikings safety Harrison Smith (22) greets cornerback Patrick Peterson (7) after Peterson made an interception in overtime to beat the Buffalo Bills at Highmark Stadium. Mandatory credit: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

Right now, the Vikings cornerback conundrum is on the minds of many fans.

Patrick Peterson had a great performance in 2022. He is currently the 5th best cornerback in PFF. Considering his age – approaching 33 – this is a remarkable rating. He played 98% of his defensive snaps and did so at a high level. QBs complete less than 59% of his coverage passes; they have an 84.7 rating when targeting the veteran. So far, Peterson has 3 INTs and 12 PDs.

The concern is with what’s happening in front of the seemingly ageless Peterson. Cameron Dantzler is a great run defender and has had strong moments in coverage, but he’s on IR. Two teenagers – Akayleb Evans and Andrew Booth Jr. – are the next options. Unfortunately, both are managing their own injury concerns. None available for tonight’s contest.

Thanksgiving Football and the Vikings Corner Challenge

Horse Viking territory, there has been some discussion about the Vikings cornerback issue. Watch how Dustin Baker discusses the issue:

Already struggling with the second-worst pass defense in all of football in yards allowed (267.3 per game), the Vikings must now manage a number of injuries. This is the bottom line on the CB depth chart starting with Cameron Dantzler.

Before long, Dustin mentions that Duke Shelley can start if the two rookies can’t take over for Dantzler. Shelley got an opportunity in the Buffalo game and he impressed with a critical PBU.

October 16, 2022; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; Minnesota Vikings cornerback Akayleb Evans (21) after the game against the Miami Dolphins at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory credit: Rich Storry-USA TODAY Sports

One thing noticeably absent, though, is some discussion of Chris Boyd. The 2019 7th round pick is not the best corner in the world. Even so, he’s been in town for a while and has some game experience. He played 6 games in his career. Boyd currently has 2 tackles on defense. Otherwise, he’s really into special teams.

At times, Boyd can struggle in coverage, but he’s a great tackler. I can understand if Ed Donatelli thinks Shelley gives Minnesota a better chance to win, but maybe we’ll see Boyd find his way on the field.

What we have is a depth chart with a legitimate CB1 – Peterson – occupying one side of the field. Our expectation should be for him to play at a high level, make him difficult to target in the passing game. On the other hand, Donatell should probably refer to Shelley or Boyd. Otherwise, practice squad players like Parry Nickerson or Tay Gowan are options.

Finally, we can also consider what the three security defenses look like. Maybe Chandon Sullivan could go out, leaving Josh Metellus to handle the duties. The safety trio of Josh Metellus/Camryn Bynum/Harrison Smith could stay in the castle for a week.

The Vikings’ cornerback challenge will likely present some Thanksgiving issues. Bill Belichick is a brilliant strategist, so one would think he would plan to target the corner opposite Peterson on a regular basis. Until that corner shows he can make plays, Belichick will likely instruct his offense to continue targeting Minnesota’s depth player.

The Dallas game is one the Vikings and their fans want to forget. Putting together a decisive win against the greatest coach of all time — especially given the relationship between Belichick and Kevin O’Connell — would go a long way toward convincing fans that Minnesota is legit. The Vikings’ cornerback position certainly offers cause for concern, but there are ways to overcome those concerns.

Look for O’Connell to try to keep the offense running down the field by running the ball. Look for Matt Daniels to find ways for special teams to continue to give the Vikings good field position. Perhaps most importantly, look for Donatell to find ways for his outside runners to get after Mac Jones, allowing the secondary to avoid the need to cover too many long stretches.

A win tonight would improve Minnesota to 9-2.

Editor’s note: Info Pro Football Reference and PFF helped with this piece.