Impact of Antoine Winfield on run defense

Pro Football Focus (PFF) offers some detail and context to supplement our discussion last week of the offseason move the Minnesota Vikings should (or shouldn't) have made.

As I'm sure you read and recall, we wondered if the Vikings had done enough to replace cornerback Antoine Winfield. The Vikings did make cornerback Xavier Rhodes one of their three first-round draft picks, and he'll join a group of high selections that include Chris Cook and Josh Robinson, but the real question is whether anyone can fill Winfield's important role in the Vikings' rejuvenated run defense of 2012.

In its first season under coordinator Alan Williams, the Vikings allowed the seventh-lowest average in yards per carry (3.96) in the NFL. A good portion of credit went to Winfield, who worked often out of the slot position -- one that put him close to the line of scrimmage and thus in a natural run-stopping position.

According to PFF, Winfield's average tackle in the run game went for gain of 2.36 yards. That figure led all NFL cornerbacks.

All statistics must be put in context, of course, and it's worth noting the pre-snap position of a cornerback can vary widely depending on scheme. An outside cornerback asked to play deep coverage, for example, isn't going to have nearly the opportunities that Winfield got last season.

Regardless, Winfield offered the Vikings elite-level play against the run. There are ways to compensate, but it's going to be difficult for the Vikings to find a cornerback who can come anywhere close to replicating Winfield's contribution. The slack will have to be taken up elsewhere.