Terence Newman: How much does he have left in the tank?


The Vikings are counting on 37-year-old Terence Newman to start at left cornerback, a position that will put him in coverage against some of the NFL’s speediest receivers.

There’s no way Newman at his age can run with these young, fast receivers, but what he lacks in speed he makes up for in guile.

The Vikings are hoping that Newman’s smarts, technique and pure old-man grit will help him compensate for being somewhat physically overmatched.

But how realistic is it to think that Newman, at 37, can hold up for an entire season in a league that just seems to add more and more explosive receiving talent on a yearly basis?

Mike Zimmer seems to have full confidence in Newman, a player he’s worked with for a very long time, but there are others who are not so sure.

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Today in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Bob McGinn published one of his always-fascinating columns where he asks anonymous NFL personnel people to assess various players, and the review of Terence Newman was less-than-glowing.

And this scout believes Newman’s deficiencies, added to certain other issues in the Vikings’ secondary, may limit Mike Zimmer in what he is able to call defensively (via Milwaukee Journal Sentinel):

"“I don’t think (Terence) Newman can play. If you’re going to have a guy like that, he is smart. With the guys they have, they’re not going to be able to play man coverage much. They’re not very good back there.”"

Another quote later in the piece expresses confidence in Mike Zimmer’s ability to make it work even with limited talent:

"“(Coach) Mike Zimmer is someone I have tremendous respect for. Man, this guy is special. I feel he’ll get that defense squared away.”"

So much praise has been heaped on the Vikings lately that we tend to forget – or maybe choose to forget – that there are still some glaringly weak position groups on this team. And one of them is cornerback.

Xavier Rhodes is an ascending player, but beyond him, you’re starting a 37-year-old corner who flat out can’t run anymore and a 5-9 nickel corner in Captain Munnerlyn who clearly doesn’t have the full trust of the coaching staff.

The man the Vikings are waiting on to give their secondary a badly-needed infusion of speed and talent, Trae Waynes, is a long way from being able to start as his preseason performance proved.

Josh Robinson, a man who gave the Vikings good work at times last year despite being undersized, is starting the season on PUP and can’t play until after week 6.

Nobody wants to hear it right now but offensive line is not the only shaky spot on this team. Cornerback is an equal or perhaps even greater issue.

The Vikings of course also have a very solid front-7 featuring loads of pass rushing talent on the edges, big, penetrating defensive tackles and versatile linebackers (with the exception of clunky old man Chad Greenway).

The Vikings will be able to get after the quarterback, that we know. And they have speedy linebackers who can run around and help in coverage.

That front-7 talent will help to mitigate the secondary issue but there are still going to be games where teams find ways to exploit that secondary.

There’s a sense that the Vikings are going into this season with their fingers crossed just hoping that they can hang on with their present secondary until players like Trae Waynes and perhaps safety Antone Exum, who failed to beat out reliable-but-unspectacular Robert Blanton in preseason, are ready to step in and give them them a boost.

As mentioned previously, the Vikings’ true advantage is Zimmer, who found a way to make it work last year with underwhelming secondary talent.

Can Zimmer make it happen again? He may need to use smoke-and-mirrors at times.

With Newman’s lack of recovery speed, Zimmer may have to resort to playing more off-coverage than he would like.

Zimmer wants to be aggressive in pressing at the line of scrimmage and bringing pressure from all over the field but he may not have the horses to do it yet.

All we can do is hope that Trae Waynes gets it figured out quickly, because I’m not sure Terence Newman is someone we can count on over the course of the season.

Newman’s inadequacies may even force Zimmer to bring in Waynes sooner than he would like. At least Waynes can run down the field and use the boundary to his advantage.

Offenses I’m sure will be planning to go after Newman, especially once they discover how hard it is to throw at Xavier Rhodes.

It could get ugly out there with Newman having to rely on pure guts and football knowledge when he can no longer run. But the Vikings are just going to have to fight through those struggles until their younger, more talented players are ready.

Next: Vikings v. 49ers: Five players to watch

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