A season that began with high expectations is turning into a lost one for Antoine Winfield.
A foot injury suffered early in the week 6 contest against the Ravens forced the cornerback to miss six games. He was able to finally return against the Bengals, and seemed to immediately regain his Pro Bowl form. But, in subsequent games, it became evident that Winfield’s injury was hampering him.
In the last game vs. the Bears, Winfield’s inability to stay with receivers helped Jay Cutler regain the big play ability that had been missing from his game much of the season.
The Vikings coaching staff has since realized that, if they hope to get the defense back to where it should be, they may have to leave Winfield out of their plans.
Nothing definite has been announced for Sunday’s regular season finale, let alone the playoffs, but it seems that, at the very least, Winfield will be demoted to the nickel role, with Benny Sapp being elevated to starter.
Sapp started for Winfield during his six game absence, and was able to hold his own. At this point, a healthy Sapp is probably a better option than a crippled Winfield.
The worst case scenario would see Winfield having to sit out entirely, forcing the Vikings to enter the postseason with Asher Allen as their nickelback. Allen has shown flashes of playmaking ability, but he like Jasper Brinkley is a rookie, and I’m sure Leslie Frazier would prefer not to have two inexperienced players seeing prominent playing time, especially in the playoffs, when one mistake can make your Super Bowl dreams go poof.