The Minnesota Vikings hired University of Alabama’s cornerback coach Karl Scott on Saturday.
Scott replaces Daronte Jones, Minnesota’s 2020 cornerback coach, who departed to Louisiana State University in January to become the team’s defensive coordinator. SEC minglings are parallels are tangible with these dealings.
The news hits as the Vikings are entangled in trade rumors with the team’s quarterback, Kirk Cousins. Monetary decisions are also afoot on players like Kyle Rudolph, Anthony Harris, and Riley Reiff. Those men command lofty price tags, and it is virtually assured that all three players will not return to the 2021 team with 2020-like cap hits.
The hire of Scott is receiving gleeful initial reviews as the mentality of hiring anything from the University of Alabama is invigorating. The Crimson Tide half won half of National Championships during the last decade. Most recently, Alabama crushed the Ohio State Buckeyes in January by a score of 52-24.
Development of Trevon Diggs and Patrick Surtain
Scott, a Houston native, is credited with the development of astute NFL talent. Trevon Diggs joined the Alabama program in 2016 and played four seasons with the school. He tallied four interceptions in college, one National Champions (2018), and First-Team All-SEC honors in 2019.
Diggs was paired with Scott with for two seasons, 2018 and 2019. The Dallas Cowboys selected Diggs in the 2nd Round of the 2020 NFL Draft with the 51st overall pick. During his rookie season, Diggs grabbed three interceptions in 12 games on his way to a 62.7 Pro Football Focus grade – third-best among rookie cornerbacks behind L’Jarius Sneed and the Vikings Cameron Dantzler.
On the potential docket for the NFL draft this April is Alabama’s Patrick Surtain II. Scott and Surtain were intertwined for three seasons with the Crimson Tide, and Surtain’s draft stock is high. Sprinkle in Vikings skipper Mike Zimmer’s zeal for drafting cornerbacks, and Minnesotans may have breadcrumbs into general manager Rick Spielman’s 1st-Round vision for the upcoming draft.
A Dantzler-Gladney-Hughes Combo to Mold
With the Vikings, Scott inherits respectable assets to develop. Minnesota spent high-round draft capital in 2020 on Jeff Gladney and Cameron Dantzler in 2020. Gladney was a late 1st-Round selection from Texas Christian University that Minnesota found with its organic, non-Buffalo pick last April. He showed a knack for tackling and run-stopping during his rookie campaign with areas of improvement evident with pass coverage. But that is often the way with rookie defenders.
Dantzler was a better coverage corner than his Vikings counterpart. He ranked as the NFL’s second-best rookie cornerback per PFF. Only Kansas City Chiefs corner L’Jarius Sneed scored better than Dantzler in 2020 among rookie cornerbacks. Dantzler showed hints of a mini-shutdown corner in his first season.
On Mike Hughes, his career trajectory remains mysterious. When he plays, he’s rather effective. But injuries have riddled his first three seasons. Hughes has played in 24 of 48 eligiblegames since he entered the NFL – 50%.
Scott’s task is to revolutionize this threesome into a Zimmer standard of proficiency, which is generally a demanding goal. And, the Vikings passing defense is desperately in need for attention.
A Secondary in Need of Repair
Uncharacteristically, Minnesota secondary was poor in 2020. The team allowed Xavier Rhodes, Trae Waynes, Mackensie Alexander, Jayron Kearse, and Andrew Sendejo to bolt during the 2020 offseason for other destinations. The disappearing act was felt on the field.
Minnesota allowed 258.8 passing yards per game in 2020 – a 24th-ranked mark. Two seasons prior, 2018, the Vikings were the NFL’s third-best bunch with this metric (196.2 passing yards per game allowed).
Scott is charged with returning the cornerback sect of the secondary to Zimmer’s usual supremacy. He, of course, will not do it alone as Zimmer is notorious for hands-on involvement in the team’s defensive, well – everything. By trade, Zimmer is a cornerbacks-first coach. Zimmer coached cornerbacks for the Dallas Cowboys for five full seasons in the 1990s.