As is often the case, Pro Football Focus has a Minnesota Vikings safety with a top-five ranking. But this time it’s not Harrison Smith.
Through two games, the analytics site ranks Xavier Woods as No. 5 among all NFL safeties. Meanwhile, Smith, a five-time Pro Bowl selection who was Pro Football Focus’ top-rated safety in 2017 and No. 3 in 2015 and 2019, comes in at a modest No. 45.
“It’s not really my focus,’’ Woods said of his ranking. “I came her wanting to win, and we’re 0-2. So that’s all that matters, getting that win. I’m desperate for a win.’’
The Vikings will try to get that elusive first win in Sunday’s home opener against Seattle. If Woods has another strong game, that certainly could help matters.
After four years with Dallas, Woods was signed last March as the replacement for Anthony Harris, who signed with Philadelphia after the Vikings showed little interest in bringing him back. Woods was coming off a sub-par season with the Cowboys, but that wasn’t apparent when Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen first saw him.
“From the first day he got here, I remember going through (spring) practices and being like, ‘Yeah this guy’s pretty dang good,’’’ Thielen said. “I (went) up to Harrison and (said), ‘Man, this guy’s really, really good.’ And just how he plays the game, how he’s able to see the field, how he’s able to take away certain things that we’re trying to do. And then now for him to go in there and show it on game day.’’
In two games, Woods has an interception, two passes defended and nine tackles. The Vikings lost 34-33 at Arizona last Sunday, when the Cardinals were able to overcome Woods’ interception.
With 3:43 left in the third quarter and Arizona leading 31-30, Kyler Murray threw a pass on second-and-nine at the Vikings 38 that was picked off by Woods and returned 27 yards to the Minnesota 31. That led to a 52-yard field goal by Greg Joseph for a 33-31 Vikings lead. But the Cardinals soon regained the lead at 34-33, and Joseph missed a 37-yard field-goal attempt on the game’s final play.
“The post (route) was on my side, so I just did my job of covering the post, and the D-line did a great job of putting pressure on the quarterback and making him throw a shorter ball and a line drive,’’ Woods said of the interception. “And I was able to make a play on the ball.’’
Murray said the throw might have been a touchdown had he not been hit in the helmet by Vikings defensive end Stephen Weatherly, but no penalty was called. So it went down for Woods as his sixth career interception and another play this season that impressed his head coach.
“He’s done a nice job,’’ said Mike Zimmer. “I think him and Harrison work together back there, they communicate things pretty well. You know, he’s been a help with really everything, with the corners, the front guys, and he’s tackled well.”
Vikings sign Mannion to 53-man roster
The Vikings on Tuesday signed quarterback Sean Mannion off the practice squad to the 53-man roster, and he will continue to serve as the backup to Kirk Cousins.
To make room on the roster for Mannion, the Vikings released running back Ameer Abdullah but then signed him to the practice squad. He is expected to be elevated to the active roster for Sunday’s game against Seattle at U.S. Bank Stadium.
The move had been expected on Mannion since he had used up his two allowed elevations from the practice squad for the season in the first two games. Mannion, the backup quarterback the past two seasons for Minnesota, was re-signed Sept. 2 to the practice squad after being released by Seattle. A source said on Sept. 11 the plan when Mannion was signed was for him to be the backup and that he would be signed to the 53-man roster after he used up his two elevations.
The Vikings now have three quarterbacks on the active roster. The third is rookie Kellen Mond, who was inactive for the first two games.
Abdullah, after playing the past three seasons for the Vikings, began this season on the practice squad and was elevated to the active roster for the first game at Cincinnati. Abdullah was then signed last Saturday to the 53-man roster, and played in the second game at Arizona.
Abdullah, as a vested veteran, did not have to go through waivers, so the Vikings could sign him immediately back to the practice squad. He still has one elevation allowed from the practice squad this season, and that is expected to be used against the Seahawks.
Abdullah is expected to serve as the third running back for the Vikings for a third straight game. Due to Kene Nwangwu being on injured reserve, the only running backs now on the active roster are Dalvin Cook, the starter, and Alexander Mattison.