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Black and Blue Division: The Minnesota Vikings' Defense

Well, let's not just stand here with our thumbs up our butts.
Well, let's not just stand here with our thumbs up our butts.

Last week I examined the Minnesota Vikings' personnel moves on the offensive side of the ball; today we'll take a look at their defense.

Defensive Ends: Jared Allen, Brian Robison, Everson Griffen, D'Aundre Reed, Christian Ballard
Additions: Ernest Owusu (UDFA, California), Eric Latimore (UDFA, Penn State), Jeff Charleston (free agent, NO), Nick Reed (free agent, TB), Anthony Jacobs (UDFA, Minnesota)
Subtractions: none

Allen returns as the consummate player that is loved by his team's fans and hated by all others. He put up his best year statistically in 2011, with 22 sacks and four forced fumbles. Robison was the primary starter for the first time and responded with 8 sacks of his own. The Vikings think highly of Griffen, highly enough to consider giving him reps at outside linebacker to get him on the field. The rest are rotational or practice squad bodies.

Defensive Tackles: Kevin Williams, Letroy Guion, Fred Evans
Additions: Trevor Guyton (7th-round pick, California), Chase Baker (UDFA, Boise State), Tydreke Powell (UDFA, North Carolina)
Subtractions: Remi Ayodele (NO)

Williams returns for his 10th year, starting at least 14 games in each season. His sack numbers have tailed off in recent years, but he still clogs up the middle effectively. Ayodele was the primary starter at the other DT spot, but left in free agency for the Saints. Guion started three games and may have the best shot to start this season.

Linebackers: E.J. Henderson, Chad Greenway, Erin Henderson, Larry Dean, Jasper Brinkley
Additions: Tyrone McKenzie (practice squad), Audie Cole (7th-round pick, NC State), Marvin Mitchell (free agent, MIA), Tyler Nielsen (UDFA, Iowa), Corey Paredes (UDFA, Hawaii), Solomon Elimimian (free agent, Canadian Football League)
Subtractions: Xavier Adibi (free agent), Kenny Onatolu (CAR)

The Hendersons and Greenway expect to be the starters again this season. Mitchell will be asked to spell the starting OLBs on occasion and is a decent rotational player. Brinkley spent last season on injured reserve, but is a good special teamer. The Vikings are no doubt hoping for one of the young players to step up in the rotation, since they let their two main backups go in free agency. Elimimian may be that guy, as he was known as the hardest hitter in the CFL before signing this off-season.

Cornerbacks: Antoine Winfield, Chris Cook, Benny Sapp, Marcus Sherels, Brandon Burton
Additions: Josh Robinson (3rd-round pick, UCF), Robert Blanton (5th-round pick, Notre Dame), Zack Bowman (free agent, CHI), Chris Carr (free agent, BAL), Reggie Jones (practice squad), Nick Taylor (UDFA, FIU), Bobby Felder (UDFA, Nicholls State), Corey Gatewood (UDFA, Stanford)

Subtractions: Asher Allen (retired), Cedric Griffin (WAS)

Winfield spent the majority of the season on IR, with Allen and Griffin getting the starts the rest of the way. Winfield will likely play mostly in the slot when he returns this season. Allen retired abruptly last month, but the Vikings brought in a number of players to try to replace him. The top candidates will likely be the veterans Carr or Bowman, each of whom have been primary starters for their prior teams, or Robinson, whose blazing speed drew a lot of attention at the Scouting Combine.

Safeties: Jamarca Sanford, Mistral Raymond, Eric Frampton, Andrew Sendejo
Additons: Harrison Smith (1st-round pick, Notre Dame)
Subtractions: Husain Abdullah (free agent), Tyrell Johnson (MIA), Jarrad Page (free agent)

Abdullah started 9 games, but went on IR and was not brought back. Sanford started 15 games at strong safety and will likely be the starter on day one again. Smith is the logical choice to start at free safety. The Vikings traded up into the bottom of the first round to draft him, and he played both safety positions in college. Raymond is the only other player on the roster with starting experience.