Harrison Smith: In position to punish?

Harrison Smith looks like he will be all over the field in the Viking's new defense, but he said it doesn't feel that much different. But Smith talked about the satisfaction he feels when he nails a play, whether it's in the running game or passing game.

From the outside looking in, it appears clear that Mike Zimmer's defense will present numerous and varied looks to the offense.

Whether the front appears to be a 4-3 or 3-4, the Vikings are finding ways to mix alignments with players that can play in closed quarters or in space. In the back end, the variety appears to be in how the safeties are used … and disguised.

Harrison Smith appears to be one of the moving pieces. At times, he is back with another safety protecting from a pass over the top. But often, Smith has been dropping closer to the line of scrimmage, either blitzing or offering additional run support.

"I did some of that my first two years, kind of depending on down and distance and what the coaches wanted. I think there's some carryover," Smith said. "There's obviously some new stuff. Like you said, coming down and blitzing, coming down into the box, playing deep, you get to do everything."

Smith, a renowned hard hitter who could be stepping into the verge of Pro Bowl status, said there are aspects of both run support and pass coverage he enjoys. Maybe even relishes. The satisfaction for him comes in the correct diagnosis that puts him in position to punish.

"There's things about both of them (pass coverage and run support) that I love – the angles, the speed, running downhill when you know you've played the play right, you've got the read right, you're coming downhill on a running back," Smith said. "And then being in the middle of the field and they run a dig and you've got a good break on the dig, they both feel the same – like you nailed it and now you've got to go finish. That's when you go back to that old-school high school, where you're out there just hitting people. You go through your reads and your alignments and then at the end of the day, it's just about hitting and wrapping up and bringing them to the ground."

The assumption is that Zimmer's defense will be more aggressive. But time and again this offseason, defensive players have cautioned they can't be sure of that until they actually get into a game and see what Zimmer, described by some as a master of the film room, calls.

"I think it's tough to tell right now," Smith said when asked about a more aggressive defense. "Could it be? Absolutely. From what I've heard, it probably is. But you really don't know what you're going to run until the games start up. We have all the plays to be whatever kind of defense we want to be. I think we'll just see what we do well. I think that's what Coach Zimmer wants to see is what we do well. He's obviously going to make the calls to make us a successful defense."

Last year, Smith tied for second on the team with two interceptions despite missing nine games because of a foot injury that was described as severe turf toe. He still finished fifth on the team with 66 tackles and added two tackles for losses, three passes defensed, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery.

Now that he is healthy, Smith will be one of the starting safeties, but how exactly the safeties are used is yet to be seen.

"I don't know what it looks like from the outside looking in. Just being in the meeting rooms and listening to what the coaches want, it doesn't feel like it's crazy or people are going everywhere," Smith said. "It just feels like, this is where I line up, this is my job. When you install it and you think about, alright, I line up this many yards and do this, it doesn't seem like it's that much different. I don't know what it looks like to (observers), but as a player it just seems like going and doing your job."


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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