The Vikings announced on Wednesday morning that cornerback Captain Munnerlyn has been taken off the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list, suggesting the veteran will return to practice and work on the field with his teammates for the first time of 2014 Verizon Vikings Training Camp. This is good news for the Vikings and, specifically, the pass defense as they look to make drastic improvements under new head coach Mike Zimmer.
The silver lining in Munnerlyn’s absence during the early portions of training camp was increased reps for players beneath the starters on the depth chart. This is good because Munnerlyn’s status on the team is secure, but beyond the starters there is plenty of competition and those increased reps will help coaches and scouts in their quest to find the best 53 players to keep on the roster.
So what does Munnerlyn’s return to the lineup mean for the Vikings? It could mean we will get a glimpse of who the early favorites are to fill out the bottom of the cornerback depth chart. As Munnerlyn gets his feet under him and runs with the first team in sub packages, those who are running with the second team in sub packages may be the ones who’ve stood out to coaches in Munnerlyn’s absence.
One guy to watch: Jabari Price. The Vikings selected him with a seventh-round pick this past May, but he has been no pushover to date. He’s impressed every step of the way, particularly with his ability to pick up the defense mentally. Others vying for a roster spot at this stage include another draft pick, Kendall James, as well as returning players such as Shaun Prater, Marcus Sherels and Robert Steeples. Finally, don’t forget about Derek Cox. The Vikings signed him in free agency this past offseason, and he made one of the better defensive plays of practice on Monday night when he broke sharply on a pass and registered a pass breakup on what looked to be an easy pitch-and-catch from quarterback to receiver. “Contested completions” is a term Zimmer has been using of late to describe what he wants to see from the secondary, and that play by Cox is a perfect illustration of a contested completion.