Minnesota Vikings Safety Jayron Kearse is set to play significant time in the most important game of his career. The Vikings have had some unfortunate injuries in the defensive backfield, which has led to the big nickel being their best option on defense. Kearse is the big nickel standing at 6’4 215 pounds, and he matches up well against bigger bodies like tight end Jimmy Graham. He excels in run defense and zone coverages, and he’s also the team’s current special teams captain.
The challenge is going to be facing off against future Hall of Fame quarterback Aaron Rodgers. The Vikings are not going to be able to play zone coverage against Rodgers, as he would pick it apart all day. They are going to have to play primarily man coverage, or a variety of combination coverages. It should be expected that Rodgers will target Kearse early and often to try to expose a weakness in his game. Luckily for Kearse, the packers only slot receiver will miss this game, so his assignment will mostly likely be a mix of Graham, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, and Gernimo Allison. All three of these targets are over 6”2 and aren’t exactly slot specialist. Valdes-Scantling poses the biggest threat with his 4.3 speed and ability to leap over defenders.
The biggest advantages the Vikings gain from having Kearse in the slot are the added run support and blitz potential. He slices through blocks and is lightning quick in his blitz, mirroring fellow teammate Anthony Barr. If the Packers are unable to run the ball and have to pass on most of their plays, they are going to be in for a long game.
Jayron Kearse is in the last year of his contract, and with Anthony Harris showing out early and often Kearse may be auditioning for contracts elsewhere. This game is the biggest opportunity he has ever had to showcase his abilities and prove he can be a starter at multiple positions on the defense. He’ll have all of Vikings nation behind him on Sunday, Rooting for a dominant performance.