The nickel situation

September 7th, 2008 – 4:38 PM by Judd Zulgad

APPLETON, WIS. — Last season when cornerback Charles Gordon played in nickel (passing) situations, he mainly played inside against the slot receiver. But it appears that won’t be the case Monday night when the Vikings open the regular-season against the Packers at Lambeau Field. Gordon said Saturday he expects to usually enter the game at left corner when the Vikings replace a linebacker with an extra defensive back. This will enable veteran corner Antoine Winfield to play against the slot receiver. 

Winfield made it clear in camp that he prefers to play the inside, in part because that puts him in the middle of the action. Gordon said he’s comfortable playing inside and out but admits the two positions are very different. “It’s totally different,” he said. “When you’re on the inside you have so many things happening around you. So when you’re on the outside you just have pretty much … you are able to focus in more on your man.”

One thing to keep an eye on Monday night is which linebacker comes out when the Vikings go into the nickel. Keep in mind, Minnesota used five defensive backs frequently last season because teams so often would employ multiple-receiver sets. Early in 2007, Ben Leber came off in nearly every nickel situation, but the team eventually started to rotate Leber and Chad Greenway on a series-by-series basis in part because Leber wasn’t getting enough snaps. Leber would come off in passing situations during one series, Greenway the next. 

However during the preseason, the Vikings went back to having Greenway stay on the field during all nickel situations. Defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier said that would change when the season started — meaning Leber again would see time in the nickel — but Monday night we will find out if that is the case.


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