Scoggins: Harrison Smith wants to earn mention as NFL playmaker

  • Article by: CHIP SCOGGINS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 12, 2014 - 2:15 PM

The Vikings believe Harrison Smith can become a top-tier safety in caoch Mike Zimmer's system because he’s smart, aggressive and he makes plays that matter.

hide

Vikings safety Harrison Smith worked on blocking kicks during a recent training camp practice in Mankato.

– On the third play of the Vikings preseason opener, Harrison Smith dropped down from his safety position, hugged the line and came on a blitz around the edge.

That’s one snapshot of how the Vikings intend to maximize Smith’s versatility in Mike Zimmer’s defense. In their vision, the third-year safety will handle myriad duties, from different coverage responsibilities to blitzes to run support near the line.

Nothing vanilla about his role.

“We’ve got everything that you can imagine going on right now,” he said. “Anything you can think of a safety doing.”

That’s a smart plan since Smith, as much as anyone on the Vikings defense, has a chance to excel in Zimmer’s scheme. The Vikings believe Smith can become a top-tier safety in this system because he’s smart, aggressive and he makes plays that matter.

Zimmer loves that type of player.

Smith is careful not to criticize the Tampa-2 defense or his former coaches, but it’s obvious when he talks about the changes that he’s enjoying a fresh start and different mentality in this scheme.

“I love how we are aggressive with closing space with receivers, not really just dropping into zones and giving them spots to throw the ball,” he said. “That’s just the way, in my mind, that defense is [played]. It’s aggressive, chase down the ball carrier, be physical.”

This has the potential to become an ideal marriage between a coach and his scheme and a player. Zimmer’s system allows Smith to play to his strengths. Namely, he likes to run and hit. And then hit someone again.

Smith won’t ever be accused of being passive on the field.

“I really need to get a good hold on the defense and establish myself within the defense,” he said. “I’m trying to crank it up a few more [notches].”

Smith looked like a future Pro Bowl talent as a rookie, but a turf toe injury sidelined him for eight games last season. He was the Vikings’ best defensive player at the time. The injury put his development on hold and made this season pivotal in terms of establishing himself as an elite player at his position.

The NFL is blessed with some versatile, top-shelf safeties, partly because that position has become more prominent in an era of pass-first offenses. Smith’s goal is to be mentioned along with those elite guys.

“I don’t go out there thinking, ‘Oh, I hope they write good things about me after this game,’ ” he said. “But when they talk about who are the top guys, yeah, you want to be mentioned in that. That’s the respect you get for making plays. That’s one of my goals, to be one of those guys that people talk about.”

He knows what’s required to reach that level. It comes down to making big plays, the kind you see from Earl Thomas and Jairus Byrd and Eric Berry and Kam Chancellor.

“A lot of safeties in the league are playmakers,” Smith said. “So when I’m out there, I think of myself as a playmaker. Not in a cocky way, but I’m confident that I’m going to go make plays. Everyone out there should think that way.”

Not everyone has the talent or the knack for it. Smith showed signs of being a playmaker in his first two seasons, when he grabbed five interceptions, returning two for touchdowns.

Now, he’s trying to master a new scheme that gives him an expanded role. Smith has spent time studying video of Cincinnati’s Reggie Nelson, a safety Zimmer used in a similar fashion as Bengals defensive coordinator.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Cleveland 86 FINAL
Indiana 93
Washington 81 FINAL
Philadelphia 89
Golden State 113 FINAL
Toronto 89
New York 121 FINAL
Detroit 115
Orlando 88 FINAL
Atlanta 95
Charlotte 98 FINAL
Boston 106
LA Clippers 97 FINAL
Memphis 79
Brooklyn 98 FINAL
Houston 102
Miami 102 FINAL
New Orleans 104
Minnesota 89 FINAL
Chicago 96
Utah 104 FINAL
Denver 82
San Antonio 100 4th Qtr 4:06
Sacramento 88
Milwaukee 72 3rd Qtr 0:03
LA Lakers 65
Oklahoma City 71 3rd Qtr 4:56
Portland 67
Boston 3 FINAL(OT)
New Jersey 2
Calgary 1 FINAL
NY Islanders 2
Washington 0 FINAL
Carolina 3
Chicago 0 FINAL
Tampa Bay 4
Colorado 5 FINAL(SO)
Dallas 4
Los Angeles 2 3rd Prd 13:10
Anaheim 2
Siena 63 FINAL
Quinnipiac 73
Harvard 49 FINAL
Cornell 57
Penn 69 FINAL
Brown 75
Fairfield 65 FINAL
Canisius 72
Manhattan 75 FINAL
Iona 79
Saint Peters 67 FINAL
Marist 69
Princeton 60 FINAL
Yale 81
Ohio 58 FINAL
Akron 70
Dartmouth 84 FINAL
Columbia 71
Valparaiso 56 FINAL
Cleveland State 53
Louisiana Tech 75 FINAL
Texas-El Paso 88
Seton Hall 77 FINAL
Xavier 60
Cornell 54 FINAL
Harvard 60
Yale 49 FINAL
(14) Princeton 67
Elon 51 FINAL
Drexel 54
Northeastern 47 FINAL
James Madison 82
St Johns 60 FINAL
Butler 49
Creighton 71 FINAL
Georgetown 62
Brown 58 FINAL
Penn 75
Columbia 50 FINAL
Dartmouth 60
Canisius 54 FINAL
Siena 58
St Josephs Brooklyn 35 FINAL
NJIT 78
Western Carolina 86 FINAL
UNC Greensboro 80
Colorado 66 FINAL
Arizona 51
Southern Ill 72 FINAL
Bradley 66
Drake 59 FINAL
Wichita State 80
Indiana State 71 FINAL
Evansville 53
Illinois State 53 FINAL
Loyola-Chicago 67
Northern Iowa 70 FINAL
Missouri State 72
Utah 42 FINAL
(10) Arizona State 46
Providence 62 FINAL
Villanova 71
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 preseason     
Aug 8 - vs. Oakland 7 pmX10-6
Aug 16 - vs. Arizona 7:30 pmX30-28
Aug 23 - at Kansas City 7 pmX30-12
Aug 28 - at Tennessee 7 pmX19-3
2014 regular season     
Sep 7 - at St. Louis NoonX34-6
Sep 14 - vs. New England NoonX30-7
Sep 21 - at New Orleans NoonX20-9
Sep 28 - vs. Atlanta 3:25 pmX41-28
Oct 2 - at Green Bay 7:25 pmX42-10
Oct 12 - vs. Detroit NoonX17-3
Oct 19 - at. Buffalo NoonX17-16
Oct 26 - at Tampa Bay NoonX19-13 ot
Nov 2 - vs. Washington NoonX29-26
Nov 9 - Bye
Nov 16 - at Chicago NoonX21-13
Nov. 23 - vs. Green Bay NoonX24-21
Nov. 30 - vs. Carolina NoonX31-13
Dec 7 - vs. NY Jets NoonX30-24 ot
Dec 14 - at Detroit 3:25 pmX16-14
Dec 21 - at Miami NoonX37-35
Dec 28 - vs. Chicago NoonX13-9

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: With Adrian Peterson's suspension overturned, what should the Vikings do?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close