Scoggins: Vikings coverage problems getting worse not better despite overhaul

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Mike Zimmer miscalculated the situation, admitted he made a mistake, and then set forth to fix it.

The Vikings signed three veteran cornerbacks with a combined 22 seasons of NFL experience in a course correction to the 2020 debacle that stemmed, in large part, from the head coach's decision to gamble on youngsters.

Zim kept adding corners like a coin collector, turning his "just one more" punchline into real-life application.

His problem isn't solved. Not yet. Not even close.

If the Vikings offensive line remains No. 1 on the list of concerns, cornerback belongs at 1A. The grades for that position through two games are not flattering.

Bashaud Breeland ranks last in coverage among 72 cornerbacks who have played at least 82 snaps, according to Pro Football Focus. Nickelback Mackensie Alexander is 59th and Patrick Peterson 53rd.

The sample size is small, but any assumption that adding veterans would automatically improve the pass defense hasn't been proven correct. The effect of losing a first-round pick (Jeff Gladney) after one season because of legal trouble and having a third-round pick (Cameron Dantzler) tumble down the depth chart is on full display.

Breeland has been targeted repeatedly the first two games and now is dealing with injuries. It's too early to know unequivocally if Peterson has lost any juice after a career of mostly elite play because teams haven't tested him that much. That's a sign of respect for him but also an acknowledgment that Breeland and the others are inviting targets.

The Vikings rank last in opposing quarterbacks' completion percentage at 77.8%. For context, no team has allowed a completion percentage higher than 72% in the past 20 years.

That completion percentage won't hover near 80% over an entire season, but Zimmer's reputation as a secondary savant will be put to the test against a bevy of accomplished quarterbacks.

Next up: Russell Wilson, who has never lost to the Vikings and leads the NFL in quarterback rating this season, and his pair of big-play receivers Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf.

Then, a month from now, this quarterback quartet in consecutive weeks: Dak Prescott, Lamar Jackson, Justin Herbert and Aaron Rodgers.

In fact, it's hard to find an easy layup on this schedule.

Returning to U.S. Bank Stadium with full crowd noise again will help every facet of the defense. The pass rush moves a split-second faster since offenses generally work off a silent count. That disruption in timing takes some pressure off the secondary in coverage.

The comforts of being at home aren't a miracle cure, though. Migraine-inducing noise won't eliminate busted coverages on its own. Co-defensive coordinator Andre Patterson noted that two busts this season occurred during a two-minute situation when the offense's hurry-up tempo caused confusion.

"You kind of lose a guy," he said. "There's a lot of communication that goes on in the back end where a guy is yelling, 'Drag! Over! Watch [number] two!' So sometimes a guy gets focused on watching his guy and doesn't see the whole thing, and that's part of it."

The job of covering receivers becomes especially tricky with mobile quarterbacks who can buy time by ducking and dodging. Kyler Murray put on a clinic last week with a few Houdini escapes that ended in a big play.

Peterson described those situations as "backyard football," shifting all the advantage to the receiver.

"They can run right, they can run left, they can run back, they can run forward," he said. "And on top of that, our back is nine times out of 10 facing the quarterback."

The quarterback they face Sunday is unforgiving when defenses show lapses. Vikings players and coaches who were there probably still have nightmares over Wilson's masterful game-winning two-minute drive last season.

Maybe Zimmer comes up a new wrinkle against Wilson or moves Dantzler ahead of Breeland on the depth chart, which is worth a shot. The bottom line remains unchanged: The spotlight on that position hasn't gone away.

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