Prater aims for ‘perfect,’ still improving

Shaun Prater’s versatility is valuable for Mike Zimmer’s defense, but the Minnesota Vikings safety still has some things to prove in his fourth year under Zimmer.

Minnesota Vikings safety Shaun Prater has a lot of experience working with head coach Mike Zimmer and he feels like that is a big part in the improvements he has made in his game.

The Cincinnati Bengals originally drafted Prater in 2012, when Zimmer was the defensive coordinator there, and then spent half of the 2013 season with them as well before moving to Minnesota. Zimmer then became the Vikings head coach in 2014, which means Prater has worked under Zimmer every year during his professional career.

Having that consistency and the ability to settle into a defense has helped Prater’s development, especially since he made the move from cornerback to safety. Zimmer likes having Prater in the defensive backfield because he is a player that has the ability to play several positions.

“I had a kid once that played for me that was a corner, a nickel and a safety and we just called him a DB (defensive back),” Zimmer said. “He’s a DB because he can do a lot of different things, and that’s one of the things I like about Shaun. Shaun’s a smart guy, he can run and he’s tough and I like smart, tough guys. And the more you can do when you’re on special teams, a guy gets hurt on game day and you’ve got 46 guys and you go in at nickel, you go in at safety, you go in at corner. All of those things have value.”

The big thing that the head coach still wants to see out of the fourth-year player is how well he tackles in a game. Players don’t tackle each other much in practice, so Zimmer wants to see how Prater handles a running back coming down hill right at him.

The safety also realizes that tackling is one of the biggest things he needs to improve, but he also wants to continue to improve in all aspects of his game.

“I would say the biggest things are really I want to touch up on everything,” Prater said. “I want to be perfect everywhere, making the calls, catching the ball, perfect breaks, tackling, etc. So my biggest test is tackling. Obviously coach wants to see me tackle, he wants to see who can tackle in the secondary, so I’m focusing on that come Sunday.”

When he first made the switch from playing cornerback to playing safety, the hardest thing for him was to figure out where he was supposed to be in the running game. Based on the offensive alignments and where his teammates were moving, he had to figure out which holes he would have to fill and it was hard for him at first.

Since he knew he had to improve in that area, and multiple other areas, he would take extra time after practices and in the offseason breaking down tape so he could get better.

“I’m very confident in all of that,” he said. “I put in the extra hours at work, even on the off days. I’m watching film and quizzing myself so I’m comfortable and ready to go.”

At this time, Prater is a fringe player and might not make the 53-man roster. A lot will come down to how he does in the preseason games and the first one will be taking place this Sunday. He knows he needs to perform well, so he has just one goal in mind.

“I just want to dominate,” he said. “Every time I get on the field I want to dominate and I want to have a perfect game, a perfect practice, do everything perfect. I understand that it won’t happen, but that is one of my goals. It’s something I am aiming for.”


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