Price making push up depth chart

Cornerback Jabari Price learned a lot of lessons in his rookie season and is looking to capitalize on what he learned in his second season. He’s getting the opportunity to show his skills with the first-team defense early this offseason.

Last year was about making the team for Minnesota Vikings cornerback Jabari Price. This year is about erasing the mistakes that contributed to him playing sparingly.

As a seventh-round draft pick, Price did well to make the team in 2014. Now his focus is on gaining the trust of his coaches to earn more playing time (he played in less than 5 percent of the defensive snaps as a rookie).

“First of all, I had to take away the thinking,” Price said. “Coming in as a rookie, I didn’t want to have any mental errors. I wasn’t playing to make plays. I’m playing not to mess up. Going into my second year, I’m going to make plays for the teams and be there for the guy next to me. I’m just trying to earn the trust of my teammates and this coaching staff and I feel like everything else will take care of itself.”

He was the final pick for the Vikings in the 2014 draft, but he beat out sixth-round pick Kendall James, also a cornerback, for a roster spot.

But this year, with Captain Munnerlyn sidelined right now with a foot injury and plenty of competition for rotational roles in the secondary, Price is getting some offseason looks with the first-team defense.

He’s looking to take the lessons learned as a rookie and apply them in his second season, and he has plenty of expert help to make that happen from position coach Jerry Gray, defensive coordinator George Edwards and head coach Mike Zimmer.

“The transition from college was definitely the technique,” Price said. “In the NFL you can’t just use your athletic ability to make plays at this level. You’ve got to play within the scheme, play stout mentally and then physically everything else will take care of itself. That’s why most of these older guys last year like Terence Newman and Chad Greenway, they’re able to make plays considering their age. I want to be like that and eliminate all the thinking.”

At this point, Price is learning two different potential roles, playing outside at cornerback and being used inside with nickel personnel.

“He was our backup nickel last year. He played quite a few snaps at nickel for us all last offseason and going into the preseason he had played a lot of nickel for us,” defensive coordinator George Edwards said. “We think he’s got a chance to compete right there. He’s done a good job handling the different concepts of things we’re trying to get accomplished underneath in coverage.”

At last week’s open-access practice, with Munnerlyn out and Xavier Rhodes attending an event for his son, Price was used as the top nickel back with Josh Robinson and Terence Newman on the outside. Price was also used at right cornerback with the second-team base defense.

“You’re not just a corner anymore,” he said of being a nickel back. “You’re in the run fits. Which gap do you have? Any misfit up front could turn into a big run. Giving a big run to a guy like Adrian (Peterson) or these good backs in this league, it could change a game. You have to know your fits. You have to know what to do.

“I took a lot of mental reps all last season: what not to do, what to do. Just growing up, not trying to make those rookie mistakes because you don’t want to be a repeat offender in this league. That’s my biggest thing, getting better every day and finding a way to contribute to this team, whether it’s inside, outside, special teams.”

His technique on defense has been getting refined since his arrival at Winter Park last year. Position coaches will always work with their players, but Price is finding it a unique situation to have a head coach like Zimmer so involved in the fine details of technique.

“He brings more than just defensive coordinator to the table. Coming from your head coach, it’s not often you find a defensive back head coach, so every day it’s ‘turn this toe in’ or ‘too many steps,’” Price said of Zimmer’s regular advice. “So when you have your defensive coordinator, position coach and your head coach on you, it’s kind of hard to mess up with everybody keying in on what you do. With all those eyes on me, it’s making it much easier for me to eliminate those rookie mistakes.”

And possibly turn them into learning experiences on his way to second-year viability.


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