Neil's NFL Daily: June 25, 2013
As much as I think they’ve drafted well, I have been critical of the Vikings’ previous free agency efforts. Last year paying $5m a year to former Seahawk John Carlson beggared belief, and even when they did sign a decent player, as they did with Geoff Schwartz, they failed to utilize him. However, unless they plan on leaving Greg Jennings and now Desmond Bishop on the bench, this year looks different. Let’s have a look at just how yesterday’s signing of the Packers’ ILB will help the team.
Tuesday, June 25th
Minnesota Sign Free Agent LB Desmond Bishop
In hindsight, maybe talking about the Vikings potential duel at strong safety yesterday makes this look like a purple love-in, but sometimes the news just breaks that way. Signing Desmond Bishop, assuming he is healthy and approximating his best form, could be one of the biggest upgrades of the 2013 offseason and go at least some way to offsetting the loss of slot corner supreme, Antoine Winfield.
While the Vikings struggled at corner in the nickel, and when Chris Cook was injured (Josh Robinson and A.J. Jefferson combined for a -16.5 coverage grade), the biggest weakness of all on defense was at middle linebacker. While Jasper Brinkley did an OK job in run defense (barring the Arizona game and the first encounter with the Packers) he struggled massively in coverage, allowing a passer rating of 113.6 on balls targeted at him (fifth-worst in the NFL) and garnering our second-worst coverage grade (behind just Rey Maualuga). In fact, that could have been much worse but over the course of the last three games (including the wild card playoff) he was allowed on the field for only one of 24 third-and-medium or longer opportunities.
With Brinkley now in Arizona it looked like either Marvin Mitchell or rookie Gerald Hodges may be the next man up, allowing Erin Henderson to move to MLB. Whichever way it went, the overall linebacker group looked thin and potentially very suspect in coverage.
After signing Bishop, provided he is reasonably up to speed after a year out, that position moves from dubious to a possible area of strength. Season 2011 aside, Chad Greenway has always shown real skill in coverage and, when not asked to spend all his time trying to paper over deficiencies elsewhere, can be a top OLB. Although Erin Henderson did not follow through on the promise he showed in 2011 (when he looked a potential star in the making) he did a solid job in run defense and his Run Stop Percentage ranked sixth in the NFL at his position.
Adding Bishop brings another dimension again. Over his last three years of play he has graded +13.3 in run defense, +5.1 in pass coverage and a gaudy +19.0 as a blitzer — serious numbers as a true every-down linebacker.
Obviously the big question is health and form, but, based on his tape from previous years, Bishop will give the Vikings the best overall group since the underrated Ben Leber left in 2010.
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