Vikings Hire Daronte Jones as Defensive Backs Coach
The Vikings have hired former Bengals assistant Daronte Jones as their next defensive backs coach, according to Bryan Driskell of SI's IrishBreakdown. The team confirmed with an announcement on Monday afternoon.
Jones replaces Jerry Gray, who left the Vikings on January 13th after six seasons coaching under Mike Zimmer. That same day, ESPN Bengals reporter Ben Baby reported that Jones would not be returning to the team. Jones spent the last two seasons in Cincinnati, and the two prior to that with the Miami Dolphins.
After playing at Morgan State, Jones began his coaching career at D-II Lenoir-Rhyne in 2001. He took an usual path to the NFL, as Juan C. Lozano of Head Coach Ranking noted:
"He’s coached high school (in the state of Louisiana), Division II (Lenoir-Rhyne, Bowie State), FCS (Nicholls State), Group of 5 (Hawai’i), Power 5 (UCLA and Wisconsin), Canadian Football League (Montreal Alouettes) and the NFL (Miami).
Jones helped second-year Bengals corner Darius Phillips have a breakout season in 2019. and helped develop Xavien Howard during his two years with the Dolphins.
According to Driskell, Jones was considering joining Brian Kelly's staff at Notre Dame (the two sides were in the final stages of a deal), but he ultimately wanted to stay in the NFL.
The Vikings' secondary is in a state of limbo at the moment. Starting corners Trae Waynes and Mackensie Alexander are unrestricted free agents with decisions approaching. Xavier Rhodes – a surprising addition to the Pro Bowl given his play in 2019 – is a potential cap casualty. Mike Hughes is the only major contributor at corner who is a lock to be on the team next year, and he's recovering from a broken vertebra on his neck.
Safeties Anthony Harris (the NFL interceptions leader in 2019), Jayron Kearse, and Andrew Sendejo are also unrestricted free agents. Veteran Harrison Smith will be back after making his fifth Pro Bowl in eight seasons.
Holton Hill has shown potential at corner, but he remains a work in progress. Punt returner Marcus Sherels recorded one tackle in 2019, and is an unrestricted free agent anyways. The other corners on the roster are Kris Boyd, Nate Meadors, and reserve/future signees Kemon Hall and Marcus Sayles. Sayles is one of two CFL players brought in by the Vikings recently.
The Vikings figure to add at least one or two defensive backs in the upcoming draft, and there are plenty of cornerback options that could be appealing in the first round.