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Updated: January 3rd, 2014 5:27pm
Krammer: How can the Vikings fix NFL's worst secondary in 2014?

Krammer: How can the Vikings fix NFL's worst secondary in 2014?

by Andrew Krammer
1500ESPN.com
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Most figured the loss of veteran cornerback Antoine Winfield would hurt the Minnesota Vikings' pass defense in 2013. 

But not many thought the attrition of one player would lead to a NFL record 37 passing touchdowns allowed, tying the Baltimore Colts' 1981 defense, according to Pro Football Reference.

In a league dominated by throwing the ball and defending the pass, the Vikings often failed on both ends en route to a 5-10-1 record and the 8th overall pick in April's draft following a 2012 playoff appearance.

Coach Leslie Frazier has already been fired and a new coach will demand a new scheme and new assistants -- but it's clear the Vikings need new personnel on the field, most importantly a veteran presence that can help tailor in-game adjustments that seemed to be so fleeting for the Vikings' 2013 coaching staff. 

The Vikings lost four games on last-minute touchdown passes. If they would've held those leads -- they would be preparing to host a playoff game at the Metrodome this weekend. 

But this season isn't an anomaly. 

They have led the NFL in passing touchdowns allowed three times since 2002 -- twice in the last three seasons. 

Winfield, the Vikings' veteran presence in the secondary, played in just five games in 2011 as he suffered through a neck injury. 

Most passing TDs allowed
2013 - Vikings (37)
2012 - Eagles (33)
2011 - Vikings (34)
2010 - Texans/Cowboys (33)
2009 - Lions (35)
2008 - Cardinals (36)
2007 - Saints/Lions (32)
2006 - Redskins (30)
2005 - Titans (33)
2004 - Packers (33)
2003 - Chargers (36)
2002 - Vikings (33)

General Manager Rick Spielman ultimately looked like a genius after trading receiver Percy Harvin to the Seattle Seahawks for their 2013 first-round pick, which turned into cornerback Xavier Rhodes, who should be the Vikings' top cornerback in 2014.

But how did the Vikings allow nine more touchdown passes from a season ago after losing just one player in Winfield? 

Even with the coming of age from Rhodes, who finished with the rookie team record 23 pass deflections in 13 games, the Vikings saw luck swing away after a 5-1 record in one-score games that led to the 2012 playoff appearance.

Rhodes' season ended with a sprained ankle in a Dec. 8 loss at Baltimore.

Second-year safety Harrison Smith left the Vikings' last line of defense for eight games as he recovered from a foot injury on injured reserve. 

But many want to peg it on Winfield's replacement, cornerback Josh Robinson.

Robinson, 22, was asked to fill in for Winfield's 14 years of experience and headstrong tackling and coverage in a slot cornerback position Robinson had never played before in his football career.

Before Robinson fractured his sternum in a Nov. 17 loss at Seattle, he had allowed 56 catches on 66 targets for 716 yards and three touchdowns, per Pro Football Focus. Shorthanded, the Vikings turned to safety Robert Blanton to fill  Robinson's role in the slot. Blanton allowed 25 catches on 37 targets for 300 yards, per PFF. 

In total, Vikings' opponents threw for over 1,000 yards against the slot. Since PFF began tracking stats in 2008, Winfield hadn't allowed more than 660 yards on him in a season. 

The Vikings need to bring in a veteran presence to help the likes of Robinson, Rhodes and Blanton develop. A change in coaching staff should ideally speed that process along as well.  

It's obvious Cook's leadership, or lack there of, as the eldest cornerback did very little to improve the position group as he also led the team with nine touchdowns allowed, per PFF. Cook is a free agent and shouldn't be resigned.  

Injuries forced the Vikings to shuffle the deck this season, but mainly plugged round holes with square pegs.  

Some changes, like cornerback Shaun Prater, worked out. Other changes like safety-turned-cornerback Robert Blanton, didn't. Drafting more depth is an option, but the Vikings need immediate impact to resurrect the NFL's worst secondary.

Cornerback Marcus Sherels is a restricted free agent after finishing second on the team with 14 pass deflections. But as undersized as Sherels is, combined with his duties on punt return, the Vikings should be actively searching for a cornerback to start alongside Rhodes come September. 

To name names of some veteran 2014 free agents that could test the open market: Chicago Bears cornerback Charles Tillman, Green Bay Packers cornerback Sam Shields, Miami Dolphins cornerback Brent Grimes and New England Patriots cornerback Aqib Talib. Players like the Tennessee Titans' Alterraun Verner and Indianapolis Colts cornerback Vontae Davis are free agents fresh off their rookie deals. Seattle Seahawks cornerback Walter Thurmond III and Carolina Panthers cornerback Captain Munnerlyn are also playing out their respective contracts. 

Andrew Krammer covers the Minnesota Vikings for 1500ESPN.com. He previously covered the Gophers men's basketball team for the Minnesota Daily.
Email Andrew | @andrew_krammer
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