The secondary picture is beginning to take shape with just days left until the opening game. On Thursday Leslie Frazier announced that Mistral Raymond will be the starter at safety opposite Harrison Smith, assuming Raymond has fully recovered from the back issue that forced him to miss time toward the end of preseason. That decision was apparently still up in the air as late as this week but in the end Frazier made up his mind to go with Raymond instead of Jamarca Sanford.
That settles the safety rotation, but what about cornerback? That apparently is still not entirely set. We do know Chris Cook and Antoine Winfield will be starting in the base defense, now that Cook has recovered from the concussion that knocked him out of preseason, but the nickel corner is not yet decided. Josh Robinson and Brandon Burton are the two candidates for nickel duty, with A.J. Jefferson still not up to speed after the trade from Arizona, but Frazier still isn’t ready to say which man will be the first in come Sunday. Whichever man does come in, he will be lining up outside with Winfield covering up the slot, same as usual.
We were told in preseason that the aging Winfield would be on a pitch count this year, so I imagine that eventually we’ll see some different mixes in the nickel personnel. Sooner or later Jefferson will be ready to take on a more prominent role, and if he works out, I have to believe we’ll see more of him lining up outside with Winfield and Josh Robinson taking turns covering the slot. Jefferson also gives you some insurance in case Chris Cook has more injury issues. The loss of Cook hurt terribly last year, given the lack of a second reliable, larger cornerback on the roster.