Matthew Emmons/USA TODAY Sports

Minnesota Vikings still searching for safety solution

The Minnesota Vikings are still searching for the best combination in the defensive backfield.

Mike Zimmer has given no indication who will start at strong safety Sunday against the Detroit Lions.

Andrew Sendejo started the season opener on Monday night, but he was pulled for the final 20 plays as the Minnesota Vikings turned to Robert Blanton, who had started the first 13 games there last year.

For Zimmer, it’s about consistency and finding the right fit to pair with free safety Harrison Smith.

“Just being consistent, doing their job. That’s really no different than any position,” Zimmer said of his desire for the safety position. “The most important thing is that guys understand their role in the defense, understand where they’re supposed to be. We all have weaknesses and we all have strengths, and understand those things too.”

Both Sendejo and Blanton had their moments when they were exposed in the season opener. Each them appeared to be out of position, late to fill a gap, or missing tackles in a loss Monday night that had many defenders at fault.

Sendejo said he didn’t talk with coaches after the game about why specifically he was pulled.

“Not much, really. Just at the end they just said that (Blanton) was going to go in. I said, ‘Alright.’ I don’t really get caught up in that. Wherever they tell you to go, you go and just play as hard you can all the time,” Sendejo said.

“In the course of the game you don’t really ask things like that. If they say, ‘We need you to go do this,’ then you do it because that’s what’s best for the team. That’s really what you do.”

Sendejo took over for Blanton in NFL Week 15 last year because of injury, then started the final two games after Blanton was healthy enough to play.

In the season opener, Sendejo started and played 53 snaps while Blanton got 20 in the second half. Sendejo looks like he could be in the starting lineup again Sunday, but he tries not to think about that too much.

“I don’t really get caught up in all of that. I just go out there every week, whether it’s defense, special teams, wherever they put me, that’s what I’m going to do,” he said. “Study as hard as I can, play as hard as I can. Just go from there.”

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Either way, he provides value on special teams, as his field goal block proved in the first quarter of Monday night’s game.

However, the strong safety position has to be one of the more frustrating situations for Zimmer, although he publicly claims otherwise.

“I don’t think so. Over the course of my career – I’ve had some great safeties – but you want pair guys with other guys that can help a lot of guys in different way,” Zimmer said. “Just because a guy is a great athlete doesn’t mean he’s the best fit for that particular group that’s back there. Sometimes it’s the communication, sometimes that you’re going to use him dropping him in the box more, sometimes it’s more of a cover guy. It’s just trying to pair that whole, the whole back end, together.”


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