The Minnesota Vikings lay claim to perhaps the best safety duo in the league. This accolade has distracted some from the fact that there is little to no depth behind the two starters, so it’s time to take a closer look at the situation. But, being that we’re optimists, let’s also guzzle some purple Kool-Aid and find those sweet silver linings.
First things first… Anthony Harris and Harrison Smith, or “Harris and Smith” as some have tabbed them, are the definition of elite NFL talent. Look around, and you will be hard pressed to find the level of consistency, football smarts, and athletic ability that these two possess. Vikings fans can be proud to have them in Purple, and the rest of this article becomes irrelevant if neither of them gets hurt.
— NFL (@NFL) January 5, 2020
Behind the dynamic duo, the Vikings have four more safeties on the training camp roster, and they typically carry four total during the regular season. These players are:
At first glance, it’s concerning to see no household names. However, if there had to be one position on the team, or any football team not to be deep, safety is a good choice. It’s not a skill position on offense, the players aren’t protecting the quarterback via the offensive line, and it’s not one where the athletes are having physical contact on every down (i.e. defensive line).
Three of the aforementioned players are rookies, so naturally the one more experienced player, Steven Parker, stands out to me. In only 14 games with the Miami Dolphins last year, four of which he started, Parker defended three passes and tallied two picks. Not bad for someone who went undrafted out of Oklahoma. It’s a small sample size, but he’s certainly shown flashes of talent. Perhaps Minnesota’s defensive backs coaches, or Mike Zimmer himself, can help develop Parker.
— Sooner Gridiron (@soonergridiron) December 9, 2019
Dan Chisena is another player to watch. Chisena started training camp as a wide receiver, and he was recently switched to strong safety. Position switches rarely work out in the long run, but rarely is better than never. A prime example on the home team where a switch worked out was with CJ Ham, who came into 2016 training camp as a running back, and earned a practice squad spot as a bruising fullback. Look where he is now.
Richard Sherman is a great example outside of Minnesota who has had a fruitful career after making a position switch (wide receiver to corner). Late in his career, the All-Pro is now considering another switch, this time to safety.
If the coaching staff are unable to develop these young backups into NFL-ready players during this turbulent time of COVID-19, don’t rule out GM Rick Spielman bringing in an outsider. The Vikings ran into some similar depth issues late last year, so they brought back Andrew Sendejo in a pinch. Not ideal, but it could absolutely be done.
A final alternative in the event of an injury would be to alter the defensive scheme. Given that he has a bounty of corners to work with, Zimmer and his defensive coordinators could switch to a single-high safety look that incorporates an extra corner. Zim always talks about trying new wrinkles, and this one would kill two birds with one stone.
Keep an eye on Minnesota’s safeties this season. Hopefully there doesn’t end up being a situation, but if there is, the Vikings are in safe hands with Zimmer and Spielman.