The Minnesota Vikings made national sports news on Friday when the team announced that Matt Cassel would be the team’s starting quarterback for Sunday’s game against the Pittsburgh Steelers with Christian Ponder suffering from a broken rib. Although the quarterback change was big news for Vikings fans, the announcement that cornerback Chris Cook and safety Jamarca Sanford are out for Sunday’s game will have much bigger impact on the field.
Minnesota’s defense, especially the secondary, has been porous through three games this season and the loss of Cook and Sanford exposes this unit even more. It’s scary to think that if this unit played horribly with the starters playing a majority of the season, it’s going to be worse with the backups in the lineup.
Cornerback A.J. Jefferson, one of the Vikings’ backup cornerbacks, is also questionable for Sunday’s game and although he’s struggled this season, it’s even more unsettling to think about who’s behind him on the depth chart. When Cook missed last week’s game against the Cleveland Browns, the Browns went after Jefferson immediately when Brian Hoyer completed a 46-yard touchdown pass to Josh Gordon in the first quarter.
If Jefferson is unable to play on Sunday, this is what the Vikings’ starting secondary will look like: LCB Josh Robinson, SS Mistral Raymond, FS Harrison Smith and the RCB spot is an unknown with Cook and possibly Jefferson out of action.
Smith is the only impact player in the secondary, and his big-play ability will diminish with the lack of talent around him. Look for Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to look down the field for wide receivers Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders throughout the game.
It’s possible that Cassel’s entrance into the starting lineup could spark the Vikings’ offense and give the rest of the team an emotional lift, but the secondary’s ability to overcome injury and stop the downfield passing game of the Steelers will be the key to Sunday’s game.