Speculation

10 Camp Questions: Who Will be Hitman’s Sidekick?

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.

MICHAEL GRIFFIN

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.

ANDREW SENDEJO

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.

ANTHONY HARRIS

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.

JAYRON KEARSE

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.

TERENCE NEWMAN

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.

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Adam Warwas

Adam Warwas (Founder) has been writing about the Vikings for a total of eight years. Five of those years have been here at Vikings Territory where he continues to surround himself with enough talented individuals that people keep coming back. As proud as he is of what Vikings Territory has become, his real treasures are in his home... a beautiful wife and three amazing children (and a dog named Percy).

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7 Comments

  1. I disliked the Waynes pick when they made it and now I hate it. M Alexander falling to us was a miracle and could literally be the piece that puts us over the top, but more importantly if you’re willing to think outside the box, and consider Waynes as our much needed option at safety. His weakness, man coverage of anything other than straight line speed patterns. His strengths, tall, fast, experienced in zone coverage, and good enough to keep opposing WR’s from getting behind him while playing safety. So if not Ant, coach please consider TW as Harry’s partner. TW should be good enough to let you have Harry fly around, tear people’s heads off, and pick INT’s, even better than he does now. You may find TW elusive enough to send on the occasional stunt blitz while QB’s focus on 22’s location. Ego has been the biggest crux of this organization starting with Mr Spielman’s refusal to admit when he’s been wrong and not cutting 1st round dead weight sooner, i.e, Ponder, Pattrrson. Coach Zimmer, you know how to get the best out of your guys, so please make TW lemonade out of TW lemons before it’s too late and you get labeled with Spielman ego-itis. PS. They should’ve traded Rudolph pre-draft. Pruitt is going to be a star!

    1. You are a drooling moron… You don’t know crap about football, or how to evaluate a player, and apparently do not know basic reading comprehension.
      Maybe since you so hate everything the Vikings are trying to accomplish you should go crawl to another team, your type is unwanted as part of the Viking Horde.

  2. Right now I have to go with Griffin. Training camp and preseason will ultimately decide. Would love for one of the young guys to make a statement and win the job and maybe by midseason?

    1. That’s the way I’m leaning to… Griffin wins the spot out of training camp, but Ant Harris pressing hard and by mid season he overtakes Griffin as the starter.
      I remember before the 2015 draft Anthony Harris was receiving 2nd round consideration, but his wrecked shoulder threw up major red flags and he ended up going undrafted. Now healthy he could very well be the answer to the question.

      1. I thought Harris played really well when given the chance at the end of last season. Like you said bdd, terrible injury slowed him down some and he needed time to fully recover. Hopefully Griffin brings his experience to the table and helps to mentor Ant and Kearse. I really wanted the Vikes to draft a safety early and was really disappointed when they kept picking other positions in the 3-5 rounds. But maybe the Vikes have found their selves another late round gem in Kearse. 6’4″ and flies, not afraid to lay the wood as well as can cover a lot of ground. I think it is likely that Griffin still has some good football in him.. he was just stuck on a very bad team that decided to clean house. So, probably Griffin this year (and maybe next) while giving the two youngsters some time to learn. Harris and Kearse could both be very good very soon. ( A little harsh on Willie, weren’t you?.. drooling moron? Ha) I didn’t like the Waynes pick so much at the time either, thought there was one other CB (can’t remember his name) that might be better that did prove to have a good season. But it is also probably true that Trae has a higher ceiling than the other guy. TW can flat out fly and has good size, I thought he looked much better at the end of the year and he did have a huge int. But I certainly did not hate the pick as they needed corners and I think it is foolish to write him off at this point. Very possible that he and Xavier prove to be a pretty scary tandem in the upcoming years, and now McKenzie for the slot! SKOL!!!!

  3. I seriously doubt Exum even makes the final 53, like the writer said… Looks slow & confused.
    And to the person who said he hates Waynes, get a life, the kid is going to be great. So when Waynes shines DO NOT come in here boasting about him, you’re a tool.

  4. I’m torn between thinking Griffin opens the season but is replaced by Harris versus Griffin is cut during or after training camp and Harris is the starter from Game 1. I voted based on the latter. Zimmer may have to get used to having safeties who are not fully interchangeable; Harris is never going to be the hitter Smith is, but Harris may be a true ballhawking center fielder.

    I think Newman will make the roster and very possibly start. I hope Munnerlyn plays well and is re-signed to another multi-year contract. He’s a leader and a good player, and…you can never have too many cornerbacks!

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