The NFC North (or NFC Central for the sake of this blog post) has a history of drafting defensive players to create match-up problems for a difference maker on offense. When Randy Moss was a rookie in 1998 he tore up the NFL for 17 touchdowns and the Vikings had their finest version of a kick ass offense in team history. So the following spring the divisional rival Green Bay Packers used their first three draft picks on cornerbacks (Antuan Edwards, Fred Vinson and Mike McKenzie) knowing they’d have to face Moss for years.
History has repeated itself over the past few years. In 2007 the Detroit Lions selected Calvin Johnson with the second overall pick. Johnson’s specs coming out of Georgia Tech were nearly identical to Moss coming out of Marshall. Johnson is 6’5” 235 lbs, Moss was 6’4” 210 lbs. Johnson ran a 4.3 40, Moss a 4.2 40. Johnson had a 43” vertical leap, Moss a 44” vertical leap. The list goes on and on.
So when Johnson scored 12 TDs in his second year with Dan Orlovsky, Jon Kitna and a washed up Daunte Culpepper throwing him the ball for an 0-16 Lions team the Vikings knew they had to do something about it. And so came Virginia’s 6’2” 212 lb CB named Chris Cook in the 2010 draft.
Cook’s results so far in the league have been mixed. But when Leslie Frazier was asked on his cornerbacks today he said, “When we looked at our division, that was one of the things that we looked at, trying to match up at times. Having two big corners with Cedric and Chris, we thought that would help us. This is one of those games where we want it to pay off.”
What Frazier had better remember on Cook is that he was lit up by Johnson for 6 receptions, 165 yards and 2 TDs in a 2006 ACC showdown that was won by Georgia Tech 24-7. At the time it was Johnson’s best collegiate game all while nursing a sore quadriceps. And two of the touchdowns were from 66 and 58 yard receptions… Burned! Cook simply finished the day with 6 tackles.
Hopefully Cook’s performance this weekend is a better one if asked to handle Detroit’s best WR. It may take bracket coverage with a cornerback underneath and a safety over the top. Then we’d have to ask other defensive backs to cover Nate Burleson and Titus Young. Whatever defensive scheme Frazier and Fred Pagac come up with, our secondary will have it’s hands full come Sunday.
Jon Merckle may be followed on Twitter @thevikingpig