The Cowboys repeatedly went after CB Lito Sheppard in the Vikings' 24-21 win, and it almost worked. All three touchdown passes came at the expense of Sheppard, who was replacing CB Cedric Griffin. With Griffin out for the season and no other reliable options to turn to, the Vikings must get rookie Chris Cook
healthy and get him in the lineup for Sunday's game against the Packers.
The PFW Spin
Sheppard was signed as a stopgap solution while Griffin rehabbed his original ACL injury, which he suffered in last season's NFC title game. The thinking was that Sheppard could be a capable replacement as Griffin worked his way back. But right away, the Vikings found out what the Jets knew last season: Sheppard is not a man-cover guy. The Jets benched him late last season, relegating him to dime duties, but the Vikings believed Sheppard could be more effective in their zone-heavier scheme than in the Jets' pressure-based, man-cover defense.
One problem has been that the Vikings' noted defensive line hasn't produced the kind of pressure we have become accustomed to. That in turn, has forced defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier to blitz more than normal. And with blitzing comes man coverage typically, which doesn't suit Sheppard's game well
at all at this point.
Sheppard made Cowboys WRs Roy Williams and Dez Bryant look very good Sunday. And in doing so, Sheppard likely put himself on the bench on defense for the foreseeable future. The ideal situation would be to get Cook, who is nursing a meniscus injury, his second knee ailment of the season, back up to game-playing shape. Short of that, the team could do a lot worse than letting the competitive Asher Allen, despite his flaws, get those reps.
But Cook is a young difference maker who has earned the praise of the team's veterans for his ability to play bigger receivers, adjust to thrown passes in the air and match good speed step for step. He has a knack for covering one-on-one and should be able to perform even if he's not completely healthy.