A Safety Issue On Vikings Defense

Posted Jun 2, 2010

Using WRs such as the Vikings Sidney Rice and the Dallas Cowboys Miles Austin as examples of breakout players from 2009,'s Pat Kirwan recently identified 20 players who are candidates in his mind to have a breakout season in 2010.

And he included another Vikings player in this year's group.

Vikings S Tyrell Johnson , entering his 3rd season in the NFL, was on Kirwan's list. Kirwan said Johnson is "still learning the pro game" after being selected in the 2nd round of the 2008 NFL Draft out of Arkansas State.

"He's an excellent athlete and plays on a defense that opposing teams don't even try to run on some weeks," Kirwan wrote. "That's a lot of pressure on the safeties to defend the pass. He had 57 tackles and seven passes defensed a season ago."

Kirwan's inclusion of Johnson on this list happens to coincide with suggestions from ESPN’s Adam Schefter and the St. Louis Globe-Democrat’s Howard Balzer that the Vikings could be potential candidates to pursue unrestricted free agent S O.J. Atogwe. Atogwe entered the free agent market at 11:00 p.m. CT Tuesday night due to a provision in the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) that requires teams to re-issue RFA tenders.

Without question the position on the Vikings roster that's received the most heat during the offseason is safety. There's no denying that improvement must be made by both Johnson and fellow starter Madieu Williams in 2010. At the same time, one must also remember that Johnson has only 1 season under his belt as a full-time starter and Williams completed his 1st season as a full-time starter with the Vikings in 2009 after his 2008 season was impacted with a neck injury.

So while the addition of Atogwe would no doubt add a talented player to the Vikings roster, there’s also a cost of pulling off such a move.

Atogwe would command a high salary and his inclusion in the starting lineup would either stunt the growth of Johnson, whom the Vikings invested a 2nd round pick in, or it would cut Williams' tenure with the Vikings short after the team signed him to a large free agent contract in the 2008 offseason. Also, the Vikings have another young player at the position in Jamarca Sanford , who performed well on special teams during his rookie season in 2009 and also filled in nicely on defense.

For more on this issue, including commentary, check out the Blog.