Roster Evaluation: S Andrew Sendejo

Minnesota Vikings’ safety Andrew “Dinero Frio” Sendejo collected a cool $188,500 in NFL performance-based bonuses for his contribution on the football field in 2013. Sendejo’s extra coin was second only to right guard Brandon Fusco’s $237,000 bonus.

Under the current Collective Bargaining Agreement, each team shells out $3,460,000 to players based on their number of plays divided by their adjusted regular season compensation.

Sendejo’s bonus was well deserved because he actually played adequately filling in for the injured Harrison Smith.

The 6’1 200 lbs special team ace and backup safety started 10 games for the Vikings and finished the season with 84 total tackles ranking 3rd on the team. Not only did he contribute significantly on the defensive side, but Sendejo also played on every special teams squad except for field goals and field goal block units.

The Vikings rarely extend contracts during the season, but in September Sendejo signed a 2 year 2 million extension through 2015. At that time, most of the media and fans were talking about extensions for Jared Allen, Toby Gerhart or Everson Griffen, yet it was #34 a reserve safety that scored a new deal.

His contract extension wasn’t the only highlight on his resume during the 2013 season. Sendejo had a 16 total tackle performance in week 10 against the Washington Redskins, a feat only Chad Greenway was able to match through out the season.

On December the 8th, in a snowy game in Baltimore, Sendejo grabbed his first interception of his NFL career. The pick came in the 3rd quarter off Joe Flacco which helped ignite the Vikings to a come-from-behind flurry of activity that ultimitely fell short 26-29. In the 4th quarter Sendejo picked off Joe Flacco for a second time but this one was nullified by a Chad Greenway interference penalty.

Yes, I could talk about the Washington or Baltimore games, but I think the real story on Sendejo is found when watching tape of the week 11 game in Seattle. Sendejo and Jamarca Sanford started for the Vikings at the two safety positions. The Vikings were showing a lot of single high safety looks with the second safety rolled up in the box. At times Sendejo would line up in the box and at other times it was Sanford in the box.

The Seahawks put 41 points on the board, but defensively the Vikings held Marshawn Lynch to 54 yards rushing and Russell Wilson to just 13 completions for 230 yards.

The Seattle game is a good benchmark to compare Sendejo and Sanford’s hard hitting style of play. Here are a few takeaways from that game.

With just over a minute to go in the first quarter and the game tied at 3, Seattle was looking at 2nd and 10 at their own 25 when Russell Wilson hit Doug Baldwin on a deep fly route for 44 yards. You can clearly see in the clip that Sanford was not in great position to help Xavier Rhodes over the top. This would have resulted in a touchdown if Rhodes wasn’t able to catch up and make the tackle.

JS toast

A few plays later in that same drive, both Sendejo and Sanford had an opportunity to make a play at the goal line on Lynch, but it was one of the rare times they couldn’t get the job done. Sanford put a good hit on Lynch, but because his head was down and didn’t try to wrap him up, Lynch was able to bounce off for the score.

goal line

With 40 seconds left in the first half, Blair Walsh kicked a field goal to tighten the score to 13-17. Percy Harvin then spoiled the day by taking the kick-off 58 yards to put the Seahawks in scoring postion. A couple plays later, on 2nd and 10 with 19 seconds left on the clock, Wilson hits Baldwin in the corner of the end zone for a 19 yard touchdown. Baldwin made a nice catch between the coverage of Rhodes and Sendejo to take a 13-24 advantage into halftime.

corner endzone

In the third quarter Seattle had a 1st and 4 on their 26 yard line. They handed the ball off to Lynch with Sendejo in single safety and Sanford lined up in the box. As you can see in the clip below Sendejo came up from his deep safety spot and quickly helped out on the tackle while Sanford was 10 yards away when the play ended. Sanford is marked in red and Sendejo is yellow.

circle play

Sendejo did a great job coming up and playing the run against the Seahawks. He is a physical defensive back who showed good form and technique when bringing down ball  carriers. The clips below are nice examples of his ability to play the run.

run support

Sendejo and Sanford were both impressive in run support leading the team in tackles with 10 and 7 respectfully. I was surprised to see that Sendejo consistently displayed better position in deep zone pass coverage while Sanford looked better turning and running with recievers on shorter routes and man coverage. Sandejo displayed good  closing speed and gave great effort on every play. His good instinct and technique showed up often around the action. Sanford might be a harder hitter and a bit quicker with better hip movement and overall fluidity, but at times he was caught out of position.

Ben Goessling of expects Andrew Sendejo to compete for the starting strong safety job.

There is no question in my mind, the best position battle brewing for the Vikings is Sendejo vs Sanford, and it will continue to heat up as workouts and mini-camp moves forward.

NFL teams with new head coaches had the opportunity to start their offseason workout programs on Monday… so, it’s fitting to end this article with a Sendejo’s workout warrior video.