The second safety spot next to Harrison Smith continues to be a position of interest for the Minnesota Vikings. Andrew Sendejo has held down the position through organized team activities, minicamp, training camp and the team’s first preseason game, but head coach Mike Zimmer still hasn’t given Sendejo the starting job for the regular season.
Zimmer says they are continuing to evaluate all the players at that position and says there are things he likes and dislikes about each of the players competing for the position.
One of the players that is really starting to gain some momentum is seventh-round pick Jayron Kearse. He only worked with the third-team defense through OTAs, minicamp, training camp and the first preseason game, but things seem to be changing as the team heads back to Winter Park to continue their practices.
Kearse was working with the second-team defense during Sunday’s practice following their Friday game against the Cincinnati Bengals, but Zimmer, in classic Zimmer fashion, said to not look into it too much. He said that Kearse was really only working there because of injuries.
Anthony Harris was not practicing, which meant they didn’t have enough safeties for all three defensive units. What was interesting, though, is that Kearse was consistently on the field with the second-team defense while Michael Griffin and Antone Exum were rotating in and out next to him.
It’s also interesting that it happened after Kearse played well in the team’s first preseason game, where he recorded an interception. Zimmer even said that Kearse did the best out of their young safeties.
“Kearse has been doing good,” the head coach said. “I think all along he’s looked good and athletic to me. We’ll just keep working him.”
The biggest thing going against Kearse at this point is that he is a young player and still very inexperienced. There are a lot of things that he still needs to learn, but it sounds as though he has been doing a good job at that so far this offseason.
Defensive coordinator George Edwards has been very impressed with his ability to learn from his mistakes quickly. Kearse will make mistakes, like any young player, but he is able to come back the next day and learn from them and not make the same mistake again. That’s what coaches want to see out of young guys, and that ability to learn will really help him moving forward.
“It’s critical for us because it boils down to trust within our room,” Edwards began. “That boils down from player to player, from coach to player. Across the board, being able to recognize things - because let’s face it, during the course of the game you’re going to have to make adjustments and be able to adjust and be able to recall, recognize formations, down and distance and be in tune to all those different things. It’s critical for us from a trust factor and just continue to improve in those areas, that’s big for us as a unit.”
There is still a long ways to go before the start of the regular season when the coaches have to name a definitive starter, and Kearse is still a long ways from earning that spot. But his role in the defense seems to be ever expanding as he continues to improve and earn the trust of coaches. The fact that he create turnovers on the field is also a plus, and Zimmer loves his long frame.