Notebook: Sanford seizing a starting spot

Jamarca Sanford had the upper edge on a starting safety spot, but Tyrell Johnson's injury further entrenches Sanford. See what the third-year safety said about the competition, as well as feedback on Kyle Rudolph and both starting tackles.

Tyrell Johnson's loss (of practice time) is Jamarca Sanford's gain.

Sanford already appeared to have the lead for the open safety spot opposite Husain Abdullah, but when Johnson started missing practice time Saturday because of a strained hamstring, it all but sealed Sanford's spot atop the depth chart, at least for the start of the preseason.

"If I go out and do what I do every day and just do what the coaches ask me to do, it's open. I'm not looking at it as a starting job, but at the end of the day, that's what everybody comes in trying to get," Sanford said. "I'm just working hard and doing what the coach asks me to do. Whatever happens at the end, it's whatever the final decision they make."

Johnson and Sanford each started two games last year. Johnson filled in for Abdullah after he suffered a concussion in October and for Madieu Williams after he suffered a concussion in December. Sanford started the final two games of the season when Johnson was out because of a knee injury and Williams remained out.

The Vikings' release of Williams before training camp started created the opening at safety, but Sanford, entering his third NFL season, said he learned from Williams, a seven-year veteran of the league.

"Madieu is a good teacher because he'll teach you certain splits that a receiver has, certain things to read as an offense before they snap the ball," Sanford said. "He was a great mentor for me. I sat back and took a lot from him. He'll tell me, inside release, slow your pedal down, just little things before the snap of the ball that will get you a jump on the ball before it happens."

So far, the physical Sanford has had a strong camp and he's just looking to limit the mental errors when the games start.

"No MAs – no missed assignments," he said when asked what he wants to improve upon. "Just keep hustling to the ball and playing hard and do what the coaches ask me to do. Don't get out of body and do your own stuff. Just do what your coaches ask you to do and you'll be alright in this defense."

THE ROOKIE'S CHANCE

Injury has also created opportunity for second-round pick Kyle Rudolph. Tight end Visanthe Shiancoe pulled up with a hamstring injury on Monday, leaving Rudolph with increased reps this week.

"He made some good plays [on Tuesday]," offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave said. "We're trying to put him in a position where he can beat man coverage. He's a tough guy for defensive backs to handle because he's big and because he can move and when he catches the ball he's a lot like Tony Gonzalez. He catches it out there, away from his body. We're going to try to create mismatches for him and consider utilizing a guy like that. We'd be silly not to."

At 6-foot-6, Rudolph is a tall target who can gain some separation from linebackers once he gets up to speed. He was already expected to see quite a bit of action early in the preseason with the second-team offense, but Shiancoe's injury will likely increase Rudolph's playing time even more in Saturday's preseason opener.

"Both those guys are excellent in the passing game and put in good effort in the run game too," Musgrave said.

TACKLE TOPICS

While the Vikings have questions at left tackle after the release of Bryant McKinnie and acquisition of Charlie Johnson, they are hoping a trimmed down Phil Loadholt will have a strong season on the right side of the offensive line.

"Our offensive line coach Jeff Davidson has really been pleased with Phil. We all have. We feel good about the right side and Phil has done a good job of leading in the meetings," Musgrave said. "He is going to do an excellent job of protection for us. We put a lot of pressure there on the right tackle with our pass protections. We have all right-handed quarterbacks, and we want that quarterback to feel secure and not feel that constant pressure of somebody coming right there in his front-side peripheral vision. So the right tackle is essential and that's why we feel good about Phil being our guy there. He is an excellent player."

Johnson has had his struggles on the left side of the line trying to keep up with one of the league's best pass rushers, Jared Allen. But Musgrave's offense calls for a lot of two-tight end sets and Johnson could get some help from the tight ends if he struggles in pass protection.

"At times he will be on an island, but a lot of times you will be able to help him with a tight end presence or running back chipping or all kinds of different schemes which we employ within our protection," Musgrave said. "Charlie has done a great job up until this point. He came in late, so everybody is swimming as fast as they can to get to where they want to go, and of course Charlie started a little bit behind, we're helping him along and we're thankful to have him."

Because of the rules immediately after the lockout, Johnson and other veterans that had signed new contracts couldn't practice until last Thursday, missing the first three days of training camp.


Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.



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\r\n\r\n","mobileBody":"Tyrell Johnson's loss (of practice time) is Jamarca Sanford's gain. Sanford already appeared to have the lead for the open safety spot opposite Husain Abdullah, but when Johnson started missing practice time Saturday because of a strained hamstring, it all but sealed Sanford's spot atop the depth chart, at least for the start of the preseason. \"If I go out and do what I do every day and just do what the coaches ask me to do, it's open. I'm not looking at it as a starting job, but at the end of the day, that's what everybody comes in trying to get,\" Sanford said. \"I'm just working hard and doing what the coach asks me to do. Whatever happens at the end, it's whatever the final decision they make.\" Johnson and Sanford each started two games last year. Johnson filled in for Abdullah after he suffered a concussion in October and for Madieu Williams after he suffered a concussion in December. Sanford started the final two games of the season when Johnson was out because of a knee injury and Williams remained out. The Vikings' release of Williams before training camp started created the opening at safety, but Sanford, entering his third NFL season, said he learned from Williams, a seven-year veteran of the league. \"Madieu is a good teacher because he'll teach you certain splits that a receiver has, certain things to read as an offense before they snap the ball,\" Sanford said. \"He was a great mentor for me. I sat back and took a lot from him. He'll tell me, inside release, slow your pedal down, just little things before the snap of the ball that will get you a jump on the ball before it happens.\" So far, the physical Sanford has had a strong camp and he's just looking to limit the mental errors when the games start. \"No MAs – no missed assignments,\" he said when asked what he wants to improve upon. \"Just keep hustling to the ball and playing hard and do what the coaches ask me to do. Don't get out of body and do your own stuff. Just do what your coaches ask you to do and you'll be alright in this defense.\" Injury has also created opportunity for second-round pick Kyle Rudolph. Tight end Visanthe Shiancoe pulled up with a hamstring injury on Monday, leaving Rudolph with increased reps this week. \"He made some good plays [on Tuesday],\" offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave said. \"We're trying to put him in a position where he can beat man coverage. He's a tough guy for defensive backs to handle because he's big and because he can move and when he catches the ball he's a lot like Tony Gonzalez. He catches it out there, away from his body. We're going to try to create mismatches for him and consider utilizing a guy like that. We'd be silly not to.\" At 6-foot-6, Rudolph is a tall target who can gain some separation from linebackers once he gets up to speed. He was already expected to see quite a bit of action early in the preseason with the second-team offense, but Shiancoe's injury will likely increase Rudolph's playing time even more in Saturday's preseason opener. \"Both those guys are excellent in the passing game and put in good effort in the run game too,\" Musgrave said. While the Vikings have questions at left tackle after the release of Bryant McKinnie and acquisition of Charlie Johnson, they are hoping a trimmed down Phil Loadholt will have a strong season on the right side of the offensive line. \"Our offensive line coach Jeff Davidson has really been pleased with Phil. We all have. We feel good about the right side and Phil has done a good job of leading in the meetings,\" Musgrave said. \"He is going to do an excellent job of protection for us. We put a lot of pressure there on the right tackle with our pass protections. We have all right-handed quarterbacks, and we want that quarterback to feel secure and not feel that constant pressure of somebody coming right there in his front-side peripheral vision. So the right tackle is essential and that's why we feel good about Phil being our guy there. He is an excellent player.\" Johnson has had his struggles on the left side of the line trying to keep up with one of the league's best pass rushers, Jared Allen. But Musgrave's offense calls for a lot of two-tight end sets and Johnson could get some help from the tight ends if he struggles in pass protection. \"At times he will be on an island, but a lot of times you will be able to help him with a tight end presence or running back chipping or all kinds of different schemes which we employ within our protection,\" Musgrave said. \"Charlie has done a great job up until this point. He came in late, so everybody is swimming as fast as they can to get to where they want to go, and of course Charlie started a little bit behind, we're helping him along and we're thankful to have him.\" Because of the rules immediately after the lockout, Johnson and other veterans that had signed new contracts couldn't practice until last Thursday, missing the first three days of training camp. 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