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Crowded Vikings Cornerbacks Group Features Plenty of Competition

EAGAN, Minn. — Forgive Andre Patterson and Adam Zimmer if they need to do a double take these days when evaluating the cornerbacks on the practice field.

The Vikings Co-Defensive Coordinators are in their second season in these roles, and while roster turnover is nothing new for an NFL team, no spot has gone through more than the secondary.

Heck, the Vikings even have another new defensive backs coach in Karl Scott. He is in first season after previously spending time at Alabama, and is being assisted by Roy Anderson, who is in his second season with Minnesota.

In short, there's plenty of new faces on the back end of the Vikings defense.

"Right now it's just trying to learn some of those new faces," Zimmer said with a laugh. "We've got a couple guys in this week, and they're trying to get acclimated into the system.

"The good news this year is that we're out on the field with them and we get chance to work with them, work on technique and make corrections," Zimmer added. "That's something we weren't able to do last year with all the virtual stuff, so it's been really valuable having those guys here to be able to learn under Coach Scott and Coach Anderson. … They have done a really good job teaching them."

A quick roster refresher on the new guys in Purple.

The Vikings added Patrick Peterson in free agency, bringing in an eight-time Pro Bowler who is entering his 11th season.

View photos of the Vikings organized team activity on June 10 at the TCO Performance Center.

Minnesota also reunited with Mackensie Alexander, who has developed into one of the league's better slot cornerbacks. He spent 2016-19 with the Vikings before going to the Bengals for the 2020 season.

While those moves happened a few months ago, a recent noteworthy addition was that of Bashaud Breeland, who is entering his eighth season. Breeland helped the Chiefs win Super Bowl LIV and also brings veteran leadership to the team.

Minnesota also added depth in recent weeks with signings of veteran Parry Nickerson and Tye Smith, as well as Amari Henderson, who participated in this year's rookie minicamp as a non-rookie tryout player.

That group is now part of a position room that also includes returnees Kris Boyd, Cameron Dantzler, Jeff Gladney, Harrison Hand and Dylan Mabin.

But that's six new cornerbacks added to the team since March, an abundance of change rarely seen across the league.

Except, of course, a season ago when the Vikings also revamped their cornerbacks group. But instead of focusing on veterans in free agency, Minnesota went heavy on the position in the draft with the selections of Gladney, Dantzler and Hand.

A year ago, Minnesota's cornerbacks were a talented but young group that was clearly short on NFL experience.

This season? Peterson, Breeland and Alexander — a group that could be the starting trio come September — has 23 seasons and 310 combined starts between them.

That experience is a welcome change for both Zimmer and Patterson.

"It's great. Patrick has been really great taking the young guys under his wing and helping with what he knows and sees with their game," Zimmer said. "Bashaud, we just got him, but he's won a Super Bowl as a corner so he knows what it takes to win in this league and cover in this league.

"That's valuable for us as a defense and it's also valuable for the young guys because they can lean on them and pick their brains," Zimmer added.

Patterson said: "Well, I think there's two things that are a big difference. Obviously the easy one for everybody who knows is that you've got guys out there who've played in NFL games, so they have experience. They're not going through it for the first time like we did a year ago."

The other thing? Patterson noted that a crowded cornerbacks room only means an increase in competition.

The Vikings are scheduled to hold mandatory minicamp next Tuesday to Thursday at Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center. Players and coaches will then get a break before training camp opens in late July.

When it does, the Vikings cornerbacks will be among the top position groups to keep an eye on.

"Competition makes everyone better," Patterson said. "Competition makes everybody compete and makes everybody strive to improve because they're all fighting for a job, and to me, what we have going on right now in the secondary … is great competition.

"And that's going to cause everyone to improve," Patterson said. "That's going to cause everyone to see who's getting better, and the cream is going to rise to the top. So, to me, that's how you get better, when you have a lot of competition."