This 10-part series focuses on the biggest questions facing the Vikings as they head into Mankato for their training camp festivities. Be sure to answer the first three questions HERE, HERE, HERE, and HERE. At this point, I’ll let you in on a little secret: Austin and I plan to use your voting results to formulate a Vikings 53-man roster prediction, so sharpen up your prognosticating skills!
For the second year in a row, the Vikings are among the NFL teams with the least amount of turnover on the defensive side of the football. For the most part, that is a positive thing and this defense is quickly becoming one of the league’s most feared, but there is one pesky position for which Rick Spielman and Mike Zimmer have yet to find a concrete solution.
The Vikings made Harrison Smith the highest paid safety in the NFL in June, which was certainly one of their primary objectives for the offseason, and there are few arguments against the move that locks him into a purple uniform for years to come.
What fans are not feeling too giddy about, however, are the prospects of the starting spot across from Smith at strong safety. They dipped into the free agency pool for a safety, and they drafted one, but none of the available options have masses of Vikings fans jumping for joy at the moment.
The Vikings want to unlock the next tier of Harrison Smith game day impact and, in order to do so, they know finding a rangy ball hawk to start opposite of him will be key. Griffin is not a poster boy for youth these days, and some think he’s regressed like his production shows, but there is that mystic Mike Zimmer magic that has people wondering if this could be match made in heaven.
Griffin possesses the experience and veteran savvy that his primary competition doesn’t necessarily bring to the table, giving him an advantage over his younger competition when it comes to learning Zimmer’s complex defensive schemes and being interchangeable with Smith on the back end of the defense. For more explanation on what all of that means, I suggesting reading Austin Belisle’s fantastic breakdown of the Griffin signing.
Griffin’s first task will be making the Vikings 53-man roster and that is no given at this point. He’ll need to put his best foot forward in Mankato if he wants to do the Hokey Pokey and turn his career around. Count me among those that believe he’ll get the job done.
Vikings fans collectively voted Harrison Smith as our 2015 Defensive Player of the Year here at Vikings Territory, but not long after they collectively scratched their heads when Andrew Sendejo was retained under a four year deal worth up to $16 million.
That contract is heavy on incentives, and he’ll have to play some much better football to see it through to the end, but it was puzzling news to come about after Mike Zimmer publicly stated that Smith could be an even better player if someone better was lined up across from him… and Sendejo was that player lined up across from him for most of 2015.
Sendejo is 28 years old and has the most experience of any option not named Michael Griffin on this roster. He’ll certainly be back in the mix for starting duties, but it shouldn’t be lost on anyone that he may just end up being an overpaid reserve and special teams contributor if somebody else can take his job from him.
Undrafted last year, Harris spent his first 12 NFL games on the sidelines before the Vikings promoted him to the active roster in December and started him in place of the injured Harrison Smith against Arizona. He made a very positive impression during his limited time on the field in 2015 and could very well be a dark horse candidate for starting at strong safety in 2016.
Harris has gotten a reputation in Winter Park as being a hard worker, a student of the game, and he certainly sounds dedicated to keeping his career headed in the right direction. Keep an eye on “Ant” in Mankato this year.
In the seventh round, the Vikings finally stopped ignoring the safety position and selected the tall, lanky Jayron Kearse out of Clemson. Learn everything about Kearse via our in-depth “Welcome to the Big Show” feature by Brent LaBathe.
Mike Zimmer loves his large defensive backs, and he has been known to use three safeties at once on occasion, but Kearse has a fight on his hands to make this roster and see any type of playing time. His best bet is going to be to obliterate speculation about his work ethic and turn himself into a special teams asset until further notice.
ANTONE EXUM JR.
Exum had 13 tackles and a forced fumble in 2015, but he has also been on the wrong end of some boneheaded on-field mistakes. I can recall little else about his time on the field other than my own personal assessment… that he seemed slow and lost on most snaps.
I’m not a believer here, but that doesn’t mean I’m right.
I’m not one of them, but plenty of people think Terence Newman will easily make this roster. Again, I’m not one of them, but plenty of people also think he’s a possibility to start at strong safety.
I’m not opposed to people serving up their own speculation here at VT, so I wanted to be sure to include the aging cornerback in our list of possibilities at starting safety.
CAMP QUESTION #4
So, here it is: Time for you to cast your vote and work towards helping us decide on one of this team’s biggest question marks in advance of the Vikings 53-man roster prediction article that is coming soon.