Robert Blanton was the other Notre Dame defensive back in the Vikings’ 2012 draft class. While Blanton’s college and pro teammate Harrison Smith quickly rose to become one of the best young safeties in the league, the other rookie DB pitched a tent on the weekly inactive list, an afterthought at best.
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When Blanton finally got his chance in 2013 – because all Leslie Frazier’s preferred guys were hurt – it wasn’t even at his intended position of safety but at cornerback. With experience as a college corner in his pocket, Blanton was able to mostly hold his own, looking particularly strong in a season-closing effort against the Lions (in fairness he did get lit up against the Eagles, but again, the situation he was thrown into was rather less than ideal).
With that gritty effort, Robert Blanton looked like he was finally ready to carve out a place for himself in the NFL. And then came regime change. Leslie Frazier and his Tampa-2 were out, Mike Zimmer and his hybrid defense were in. Where did Robert Blanton fit in the new scheme, if anywhere?
With the Vikings snapping up veteran corners in free agency, drafting several DBs and signing more DBs as UDFAs, it seemed Robert Blanton was once again an afterthought. But something happened in OTAs and minicamp that signaled a change for Blanton.
Despite the returns of Jamarca Sanford, Andrew Sendejo and Mistral Raymond, the drafting of Antone Exum and the signing of Kurt Coleman, Robert Blanton got to run with the ones at safety. Blanton is now expected to be the starter beside Harrison Smith at the open of training camp. Zimmer has seen something in Blanton early on that Frazier apparently never saw.
So, where has Robert Blanton been in all the conversations about the Vikings’ defensive backfield? It seems he is once again the forgotten man. But it’s high time we all stopped forgetting about Robert Blanton.
Three years into his career, and with new coaches who may better understand what he brings to the table, Blanton may finally get the chance Leslie Frazier never seemed quite prepared to give him. He is poised to make an impression that none of us will be able to ignore.