With the second preseason game about to kick off, one of the central storylines for the Vikings is the competition for the other starting safety spot alongside Harrison Smith.
Who will be the other starter when it all shakes out? The picture hasn’t cleared very much over the course of training camp and one preseason game, but Mike Zimmer hopes that all changes tonight.
With an eye toward sorting out that issue, Zimmer has said he wants to get a long look at four guys tonight against Arizona: Chris Crocker, Andrew Sendejo, Jamarca Sanford and Kurt Coleman.
Per Ben Goessling, Crocker will be the first man up against the Cardinals. Zimmer had Crocker in Cincinnati and knows what he can do, but he needs to see that Crocker can still go out on the field and actually do it.
Zimmer’s familiarity with Crocker likely gives the former Bengal the leg-up in the on-going scrum. But those other three men will get their chance as well. Each brings something special to the table.
Kurt Coleman showed last week against Oakland that he has playmaking ability and nice coverage skills (though his cover skills didn’t always show up in his last stop at Philadelphia).
Jamarca Sanford we know can be a hard-hitting inside-the-box safety with a knack for forcing fumbles. But he struggles sometimes holding on to interceptions and can often get burned.
Andrew Sendejo is a valuable special teams player and for that reason has likely already secured himself a roster spot. But Sendejo last year showed that he can be a good cover man as well.
The odd-men-out in this battle appear to be the injured Robert Blanton and the underwhelming Mistral Raymond. Antone Exum likely will be kept on the roster as a rookie with good potential who can get after it on special teams.
When all is said and done, it’s likely the Vikings won’t settle on just two main safeties anyway. Zimmer will likely rotate at least three men through on a regular basis, depending on match-ups.
Tonight’s open safety audition will hopefully move things down the road toward resolution as to who will be featured in that rotation.