Vikings still undecided at one safety spot

  • Article by: MATT VENSEL , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 2, 2014 - 8:08 AM

Coach Mike Zimmer still isn't saying who will be starting at safety opposite Harrison Smith.

hide

Vikings safety Robert Blanton is among those in the running to be a starter at the second safety spot as the team prepares for first game of the season.

Photo: Ed Zurga • Associated Press,

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

The season opener looms in five days, but Harrison Smith could only shrug when asked which of his fellow safeties will line up next to him against the St. Louis Rams.

Since the start of training camp, Smith has patrolled the back end of the Vikings secondary with Robert Blanton, Jamarca Sanford, Chris Crocker, Kurt Coleman, Andrew Sendejo and Mistral Raymond at different points. Three of those safeties started a game in the preseason.

But after this week’s roster cuts, only Blanton, Sendejo and rookie Antone Exum still are standing, and coach Mike Zimmer hasn’t decided who will start alongside Smith going forward.

“I’ve worked with every guy in the locker room since training camp started, so I think there’s a good vibe among all of us,” Smith said, downplaying any questions about chemistry in the secondary.

“As long as we communicate and we’re all on the same page, we should be in the right spots.”

While the competition at safety — complicated by injuries to Sanford, Blanton and Sendejo — was wide open in training camp, it appeared that Crocker, who had played for Zimmer the past seven seasons in Atlanta and Cincinnati, was the favorite, if there was one, to start.

So much for that.

Crocker and Coleman, who both had starting experience elsewhere, were sent packing as the Vikings trimmed their roster to 53 players Saturday. And Sanford, who was also in jeopardy despite starting next to Smith in both 2012 and 2013, was placed on injured reserve.

“We felt like we had a lot of the same guys,” Zimmer said. “Special teams had a lot of influence on it.”

Blanton and Sendejo were among the team’s leading tacklers on special teams a year ago, and Zimmer said the Vikings are pleased with Exum’s growth in that phase.

But one of those three will have to start on defense, too, and it’s not as if any of them have seized the position.

Blanton was with the first-team defense during spring workouts and at the start of training camp, but he missed two weeks because of a hamstring injury, putting the position into further chaos.

While he was out, Sendejo returned from a back injury. When finally healthy, both did enough to convince Zimmer to cut ties with three veteran safeties.

“They had a tough decision upstairs, and I just have to come out and do my job and worry about getting better,” said Blanton.

Zimmer said this week’s practices will determine who starts.

Blanton, who played cornerback at Notre Dame, seems to fit what he is looking for at the position. He has some man-to-man coverage ability and is the rangiest safety of the bunch.

“Sometimes when you make the transition from corner to safety, it takes those guys a while,” Zimmer said. “He’s a smart guy and does that. You have a little more athletic ability usually when you bring a corner in there. Unfortunately, he got hurt early, and we didn’t get a chance to see him a little bit more.”

Zimmer spoke this spring about the challenge of evaluating safeties for today’s NFL and said that in the past he thought about playing three cornerbacks and just one safety in his base defense.

Like Blanton, Exum also lined up at cornerback in college, and Zimmer also hinted that he could eventually move cornerback Shaun Prater to safety as well.

Finding another safety who could match up with receivers or cover a lot of ground as a zone defender would allow Zimmer to use Smith closer to the line of scrimmage, where at times he wreaked havoc during the preseason, particularly as a blitzer off the edge.

Smith said he is confident that whoever starts next to him in St. Louis will be able to do the job.

“They’ve all made plays. They’re all competitors. They all can tackle. They all can run. They’re smart guys,” Smith said.

“I played with Robert in college for a while. I’ve been with Sendejo here. And Exum is a young guy with a lot of talent. Those guys have done a lot of good things.”



 

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Cleveland - WP: C. Allen 4 FINAL
Kansas City - LP: G. Holland 3
Baltimore - LP: W. Chen 0 FINAL
NY Yankees - WP: M. Pineda 5
Kansas City - WP: D. Duffy 2 FINAL
Cleveland - LP: C. Carrasco 0
Seattle - LP: J. Paxton 4 FINAL
Toronto - WP: J. Happ 14
Chicago WSox - WP: C. Bassitt 2 FINAL
Detroit - LP: K. Lobstein 0
Pittsburgh - WP: F. Liriano 1 FINAL
Atlanta - LP: A. Harang 0
Houston - LP: N. Tropeano 3 FINAL
Texas - WP: D. Holland 4
St. Louis - WP: A. Wainwright 8 FINAL
Chicago Cubs - LP: T. Wood 0
Arizona - WP: J. Collmenter 6 FINAL
Minnesota - LP: R. Nolasco 2
LA Angels - LP: C. Wilson 4 FINAL
Oakland - WP: J. Samardzija 8
San Francisco 2 Top 11th Inning
Los Angeles 2
Colorado - LP: T. Matzek 0 FINAL
San Diego - WP: E. Stults 1
Chicago 27 FINAL
NY Jets 19
NY Giants 9/25/14 7:25 PM
Washington
Buffalo 9/28/14 12:00 PM
Houston
Green Bay 9/28/14 12:00 PM
Chicago
Tennessee 9/28/14 12:00 PM
Indianapolis
Carolina 9/28/14 12:00 PM
Baltimore
Detroit 9/28/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
Tampa Bay 9/28/14 12:00 PM
Pittsburgh
Miami 9/28/14 12:00 PM
Oakland
Jacksonville 9/28/14 3:05 PM
San Diego
Atlanta 9/28/14 3:25 PM
Minnesota
Philadelphia 9/28/14 3:25 PM
San Francisco
New Orleans 9/28/14 7:30 PM
Dallas
Ottawa 2 FINAL
NY Islanders 3
Ottawa 5:00 PM
NY Islanders
New Jersey 5 FINAL
NY Rangers 4
Detroit 2 FINAL
Pittsburgh 1
Toronto 3 FINAL
Philadelphia 2
Washington 4 FINAL
Philadelphia 5
Minnesota 1 FINAL
Winnipeg 2
St. Louis 3 FINAL
Dallas 4
Anaheim 5 FINAL
Colorado 2
Colorado 0 FINAL
Anaheim 4
Los Angeles 4 FINAL
Arizona 5
Arizona 3 FINAL
Los Angeles 4
Texas Tech 9/25/14 6:30 PM
(24) Oklahoma State
Appalachian St 9/25/14 6:30 PM
Ga Southern
(11) UCLA 9/25/14 9:00 PM
(15) Arizona State
Middle Tennessee 9/26/14 7:00 PM
Old Dominion
Fresno State 9/26/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico
Texas-El Paso 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(25) Kansas State
Tennessee 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(12) Georgia
Vanderbilt 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Kentucky
Wyoming 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(9) Michigan State
Northwestern 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Penn State
TCU 9/27/14 11:00 AM
SMU
Iowa 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Purdue
Tulane 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Rutgers
So Florida 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(19) Wisconsin
Colorado State 9/27/14 11:30 AM
Boston College
Western Mich 9/27/14 11:30 AM
Virginia Tech
Maryland 9/27/14 12:30 PM
Indiana
Akron 9/27/14 12:30 PM
Pittsburgh
Bowling Green 9/27/14 2:00 PM
Massachusetts
Arkansas 9/27/14 2:30 PM
(6) Texas A&M
Kent State 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Virginia
Western Ky 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Navy
Minnesota 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Michigan
Wake Forest 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Louisville
FIU 9/27/14 2:30 PM
UAB
(1) Florida State 9/27/14 2:30 PM
NC State
Miami-Ohio 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Buffalo
Colorado 9/27/14 3:00 PM
California
Louisiana Tech 9/27/14 3:00 PM
(5) Auburn
Texas 9/27/14 3:00 PM
Kansas
Temple 9/27/14 3:00 PM
Connecticut
(16) Stanford 9/27/14 3:15 PM
Washington
TX-San Antonio 9/27/14 4:00 PM
Fla Atlantic
South Alabama 9/27/14 4:00 PM
Idaho
Cincinnati 9/27/14 5:00 PM
(22) Ohio State
Rice 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Southern Miss
Missouri 9/27/14 6:00 PM
(13) So Carolina
Boise State 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Air Force
North Carolina 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Clemson
Central Mich 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Toledo
Troy 9/27/14 6:00 PM
ULM
New Mexico St 9/27/14 6:30 PM
(17) LSU
Memphis 9/27/14 6:30 PM
(10) Ole Miss
Duke 9/27/14 6:30 PM
Miami-Florida
Texas State 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Tulsa
Washington St 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Utah
(8) Notre Dame 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Syracuse
(7) Baylor 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Iowa State
UNLV 9/27/14 7:00 PM
San Diego St
Illinois 9/27/14 8:00 PM
(21) Nebraska
Oregon State 9/27/14 9:30 PM
(18) USC
Nevada 9/27/14 9:30 PM
San Jose St
Montreal 9/26/14 6:00 PM
Ottawa
Saskatchewan 9/26/14 9:00 PM
Edmonton
Hamilton 9/27/14 5:30 PM
Winnipeg
Brt Columbia 9/27/14 8:30 PM
Calgary
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 pm
Oct 2 - at Green Bay 7:25 pm
Oct 12 - vs. Detroit Noon
Oct 19 - at. Buffalo Noon
Oct 26 - at Tampa Bay Noon
Nov 2 - vs. Washington Noon
Nov 9 - Bye
Nov 16 - at Chicago Noon
Nov. 23 - vs. Green Bay Noon
Nov. 30 - vs. Carolina Noon
Dec 7 - vs. NY Jets Noon
Dec 14 - at Detroit Noon
Dec 21 - at Miami Noon
Dec 28 - vs. Chicago Noon

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Grade the Vikings offense

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close