Blanton showing off his needed versatility

The most-used player on special teams not only got his most extensive action on defense, he was playing out of position there and "held his own," according to Leslie Frazier. Robert Blanton talked about the challenge of the move and why he enjoyed it.

In one game, Robert Blanton nearly doubled the amount of snaps he had taken in the previous 10. Desperation on defense can do that, but Blanton performed decently playing out of position.

With the Minnesota Vikings already thinned by injuries in the defensive backfield, Blanton, who has been practicing almost exclusively at safety since being drafted by the Vikings in 2012, was called into action against the Green Bay Packers as a cornerback.

"It was tough, but I love to play football so I got an opportunity to get in there and play so it was fun. I enjoyed it," Blanton said.

"You've just got to make sure you have great technique all the time and you can't mess up in the slot. You do your job and hope the team will be the best."

With Josh Robinson out with a fractured sternum and Xavier Rhodes trying to play through a leg injury before leaving Sunday's game with a concussion, Blanton got his most extensive action, playing in 49 defensive snaps. Prior to the Packers game, Blanton had played in only 73 snaps, at safety. Sunday, however, he was asked to become more of a man coverage cornerback, which often had him matched up with the Packers' best receiver this season, Jordy Nelson.

"With the situation that we have in the secondary, we've had to make him utilize those corner skills and play slot corner, which is a challenging, challenging position," said head coach Leslie Frazier, a former cornerback himself. "But he did a good job (Sunday) and because we are where we are, we'll probably have to get him a few more snaps there in practice and in the games. That wasn't the original goal to make him a slot corner. This is where we are."

The Vikings drafted Blanton out of Notre Dame in April 2012 to play safety. He has spent the better part of the last 18 months making the transition from largely a college cornerback to NFL safety.

"I like both, just wherever I can get in and play and make a difference," he said.

"Safety, you've got to know a little more. Corner, it's more just the ability out there and it's almost just raw talent, one on one. You get to see who's the best every play. Safety, you're working with other guys a lot more, which makes it just as fun."

The Vikings have detailed the challenges Robinson had this year making the transition from mainly an outside cornerback as a rookie in 2012 to also being asked to play the slot receiver in the nickel defense this year since the Vikings made the decision to move on this year without veteran Antoine Winfield. The transition from safety to nickel cornerback was likely just as challenging for Blanton.

"There's a lot of space in there when you're playing man to man, so that can get tough," he said. "And you've got to be able to support in the run, too. But it's a fun position to play and I'm looking forward to getting another opportunity."

Blanton said he loves being close to the action to support the run, one of the big requirements in which Winfield thrived.

Blanton was mostly a cornerback at Notre Dame. In the past 18 months, he has practiced mostly as a safety. This year, his biggest contribution has been on special teams, where he has played a higher percentage of snaps (66.2 percent) than anybody else on the team.

Now, the latest challenge.

"I think football is a physical game and when you can get in the box and be physical and put hands on guys," he said, "I like it and think it's fun."


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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