Minnesota Vikings: Examining the options at safety
By Dan Zinski
The Minnesota Vikings are still looking for the right kind of safety to line up alongside Harrison Smith.
One of the big questions as we head (slowly but surely) toward training camp is who will line up at safety alongside Pro Football Focus Top-25 player Harrison Smith.
The Vikings last year had Andrew Sendejo in that role, but Sendejo’s performance was at best uneven. 2014 starting safety Robert Blanton saw only spot duty and was allowed to walk in free agency.
Sendejo remains the favorite to start after an offseason of moves, but there is no guarantee he will be the man once the opener rolls around. Briefly, let’s consider the Vikings’ options at the safety position.
Option #1: Andrew Sendejo
Pluses: Knows the system well. Likes to hit. Has Mike Zimmer’s trust (more-or-less).
Minuses: Is not particularly good in coverage. Lacks discipline at times. Occasionally plays recklessly and nearly injures his own teammates.
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Verdict: Is the default starter if the Vikings can’t find someone better in camp.
Option #2: Michael Griffin
Pluses: Veteran with loads of experience. Has played for Vikings DBs coach Jerry Gray before.
Minuses: Has slowed down and may not be able to play center field anymore.
Verdict: Griffin was signed to a budget one-year contract and will have to prove in camp that he can still play. He may like Terence Newman still have some good football left in him, or he may be this year’s Chris Crocker.
Option #3: Antone Exum
Pluses: Young and athletic. Is entering his third year with the team.
Minuses: Despite being given chances to play, has failed to earn Mike Zimmer’s trust.
Verdict: Exum has a decent chance to hang on as a backup/special teams player but the days of being excited about his potential to start I think are over.
Option #4: Anthony Harris
Pluses: Young player who obviously has something going for him or he would not have caught on as a UDFA last year. Showed deep cover skills in college.
Minuses: Never was considered particularly versatile.
Verdict: Like Exum, Harris will have to prove that he deserves to stick around as a backup/special teamer. Unlikely to be in the starting mix.
Option #5: Jayron Kearse
Pluses: Incredibly tall and incredibly fast. Has tremendous athleticism. Reminds people superficially of former Mike Zimmer protege George Iloka.
Minuses: May be too tall and gangly to effectively play safety. Just because you look like George Iloka, that doesn’t mean you will be George Iloka, even if you have Mike Zimmer coaching you. Some question Kearse’s attitude.
Verdict: They took a seventh-round flier on Kearse for a reason. He will almost certainly stick around unless he turns out to be a total turd in camp. If it turns out that Zimmer can mold him, may be a starter in year two.
Option #6: Somebody else
What if the Vikings are unimpressed by any of their options at safety? There are a bunch of free agents sitting out there in the event the Vikings feel the need to bring someone in early in camp.
Walter Thurmond: Experienced veteran player. Switched to safety before last season and performed decently.
Donte Whitner: Decent coverage safety.
Will Hill: Facing ten-game suspension. Hard pass.
Louis Delmas: Gets hurt too much.
Will Allen: Too old.
Dashon Goldson: Middle of the road player.
Antrel Rolle: Old.
William Moore: Hurt too much.
Brandon Meriweather: No.
Next: Of course Adrian Peterson was a top-100 player
Prediction: Either Exum or Harris gets cut at the end of camp. Griffin hangs on as the #3 safety. Sendejo is the week 1 starter alongside Harrison Smith and everyone grumbles that the Vikings didn’t address the position.