Daniel House kicks off a new series in which he will highlight his top five training camp battles leading up to the first practice on Friday. Today he discusses the safety position, which holds down the bottom of the list.
Is there really a battle for this position group, or did Jamarca Sanford do enough to solidify himself as the second man on the backend of the defense? I'm not so sure and think there is potential for a tidal wave to cause a shakeup in the safety rotation.
Sanford is a solid special teams option for Mike Priefer's unit, but struggled in coverage the majority of his time last season. He was a proven commodity in run defense and has a knack for creating turnovers. Jamarca was re-signed to a two year deal in the offseason and was brought back for reliability and continuity with the system. Towards the end of training camp last year, Sanford was hanging by a proverbial thread and was nearly released in a fierce roster battle. Much of the reason why he made the roster was due to injuries and uncertainty surrounding Mistral Raymond. The real question will be whether he can put all the tools together after 5 seasons in the league, but it seems like it might be too late.
Raymond struggled with injuries during training camp and during the halfway point of the 2012 season. In his time on the field, he was much better in coverage than Jamarca Sanford, but was a very poor tackler in run support. Mistral struggled to wrap-up and was a notorious arm tackler last season. In his third season, the Vikings are hoping to see the full transition from mediocrity to success as soon as possible. If Raymond and Sanford both display similar play during camp, the Vikings have two more legitimate options that may emerge as Harrison Smith's counterpart.
I want to see more of Blanton in an extended role in 11 on 11 drills during full contact practices. He is definitely one of the more intriguing players I want to catch a closer glimpse of. Blanton was drafted in the 2012 class, but missed most of camp with a nagging hamstring injury. In his time at Notre Dame, he displayed sound instincts in run support, but has never been exposed to NFL level passing games. The night scrimmage will be an interesting evening to develop a more firm grasp of his ball skills and tangibles in coverage. This is definitely one area I will be watching closely and will provide analysis on.
Many of you are wondering how and why I believe Bishop has a chance to make this team. An undrafted rookie from NC State, Bishop has great size at 6'2", along with experience in a full tenure with the Wolfpack. He has led the team in tackles the past two seasons and has proven himself as a run defender inside and out of the box. Once again, the real underlying factor is whether Bishop can handle the coverage aspect of the game. Many draft analysts had Bishop pegged as a late round draft pick and was one of the first undrafted rookies signed by the Vikings. He lacks speed, but brings forth potential upside and raw material that could be developed with the help of the coaching staff.
Next up......#4 Wide Receivers