The NFL preseason is the time of year where young players are able to show the coaching staff what they have to offer. It might be the only time of the year they are able to see the field so it is important they make the most of all the opportunities given to them.
That is exactly what Minnesota Vikings safety Antone Exum Jr. has been doing in the first two preseason games. In the Hall of Fame Game he was able to recover a fumble, and followed that up by forcing another turnover in the team’s second game when he intercepted the No. 1 pick in the 2015 draft, Jameis Winston.
“Great play. Anytime you get your hands on the ball as a defensive back, it changes the game,” said fellow safety Harrison Smith. “He made a great read in the middle of the field and made a play. That’s what you want to see out of a safety so it’s good to see that.”
Head coach Mike Zimmer has been impressed by Exum’s play, but at the same time he still thinks there is plenty he needs to improve on.
“He’s active. He obviously made a nice play on the interception,” Zimmer said. “He got down in there one time on a run, he was in good position, he didn’t finish the tackle. Those are things he’s going to have to improve on. Safeties have to be able to tackle. But he’s a very good athlete and we just have to get him disciplined.”
Exum is a converted cornerback who is now playing safety and he is still getting used to the position. He has a year of experience under his belt and says that it is that experience that has allowed him to create these turnovers in the first two games.
He has become more comfortable playing the position and in Zimmer’s schemes and that comfort has allowed him to play with more ease than he did in the past.
“Like I said, I have more understanding of the defense and what I’m doing out there,” Exum said. “So I’m not letting my mind slow my feet so I’m able to play faster.”
Exum is one of three players in consideration for the starting safety position opposite Smith. Robert Blanton is the front-runner in that competition currently, but Exum is hoping that his performance on the field will be enough to help him out.
Ultimately, it is up to the coaches to put out the players they feel are best suited to get the job done. He just hopes his play on the field causes the coaches to give him consideration.
“I hope that it starts talk,” Exum said about his play on the field. “I think that that’s a big part of the game, being able to be around the ball. That’s something that I pride myself in, being able to make that big play that can spark the game. Being able to be around the ball and being able to come up with it. I feel like that’s a quality I have.”
Forcing turnovers an Exum forte
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