The Vikings are expected to be without CB Chris Cook (broken arm) for at least seven weeks, but the secondary could see the return of safety Mistral Raymond, who has missed the last five games after a partially dislocated ankle suffered Sept. 23.
Raymond has returned to practice on a limited basis the last two weeks, but he isn’t expected to resume his starting role just yet. Jamarca Sanford has been filling that role for the last five weeks.
“We’re going to ease him back in just to make him feel comfortable. At this point, I’m not sure if he can go out and play a full ballgame,” defensive coordinator Alan Williams said. “Conditioning out on the field and in practice is a little bit different from playing in a ballgame.”
Conditioning is the biggest consideration for Raymond at this point, but the Vikings still consider Raymond the starter when he is back to full strength.
“When we feel like he’s ready to do it full time, we’ll decide whether we want to rotate those guys or whether Mistral’s in there full time,” head coach Leslie Frazier said. “Jamarca’s done enough where we want to pay attention to him.”
Sanford was taking the first-team reps with the defense in Friday’s practice, as he has ever since Raymond’s injury on Sept. 23. Sanford’s run defense is considered his strength, anyway, and since the Seattle Seahawks feature RB Marshawn Lynch, second in the league with 757 yards rushing, holding Raymond’s snaps to a minimum – if at all – could be the prudent move.
“We want to be cautious with him and we would rather be conservative than be really aggressive and put him out there for a full game and him not be ready,” Williams said.
Rookie CB Josh Robinson is expected to get the start in place of Cook – although the Vikings weren’t announcing a starter on Friday – and A.J. Jefferson, whom the Vikings traded for before the season began, should be the first cornerback brought in during nickel situations, when Antoine Winfield will slide inside to the slot.
“I’ve been here a while and kind of got acclimated fast to the defense, but I’m ready to step in anytime,” Jefferson said Friday. “I haven’t changed anything I’ve been doing. I’ve been preparing the same, like I was ready to play at anytime.”
Despite the personnel change, the Vikings won’t dramatically alter what their coverages.
“We’re not going to adjust the defense. We didn’t build the defense around Cook,” Williams said. “It’s a collective effort in terms of the players that we have so when one guy goes down, we don’t change a whole bunch. Really, we don’t change at all. We do what we’re going to do and guys have to execute the defense.”
With Cook out, the Vikings lost their biggest cornerback, but Jefferson is second in line in the size department. He is 6-foot-1, 190 pounds and figures to line up against Seattle’s big-bodied Sidney Rice (6-foot-4, 202 pounds).
“When I was in Arizona, I saw him a lot so it won’t be a big surprise for me to line up against him. I kind know what he’s capable of; I know how to shut him down. I anticipate lining up against him.”
Jefferson said his length should help him jam Rice at the line of scrimmage.
Robinson has started twice before - once in the nickel package against the Detroit Lions on Sept. 30 and then in the base defense the following week against the Tennessee Titans as the Vikings attempted to limit the wear and tear on 14-year veteran Antoine Winfield. Robinson has one of the Vikings' four interceptions this season.
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.