Men Without Hats called it the Safety Dance. Well, these guys all wear hats, thank you, as the Vikings enjoy a plethora of quality, experience and depth at safety in training camp this summer.
“That’s a strong position with a lot of depth and a quality group of guys,” defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier said last week. “Right now the competition is really heated and with [Darren] Sharper and with [Dwight] Smith and now with Tank [Williams] and Mike Doss as well, and the other guys, Patrick [Body] and the other guys that are back there, it's a good group and that's a strong part of our defense for sure.”
Sharper is an 11-year veteran who enters the season with 151 NFL games under his belt and 49 career interceptions, including 7 returned for touchdowns. He has also scored on a pair of fumble recoveries during his pro career.
Smith is a 7-year veteran with 93 regular-season games and 18 interceptions to his credit.
Between those two, the Vikings have a combined 18 years experience and nearly 250 NFL games of big-time experience from which to draw.
The next tier includes Williams and Doss, who are also proven commodities, although both coming back from different forms of knee injuries.
“They both seem at this point to not have had any setbacks, and they seem to be progressing every day,” Frazier said. “Now that we are going to go to a schedule where it is not as taxing in the afternoon, it should be a plus for those guys. We'll probably see a boost by the two of them. I think they are on track. I think they both are on track to have a good training camp and a good season.”
Williams brings 57 NFL games of experience to the table and appears to have put the kneecap injury from last season behind him.
“I just like the fact that he is pain-free and he is a smart guy who gets them all lined up,” Frazier continued. “I've seen very good range from him. He is a big body, so can come down and play in the box, but I have seen good range from him in center field. I think it's huge; we were talking about it at the special teams practice yesterday that aside from having camp legs, he doesn't have that telling pain that he had last year. He is pain-free and he looks like he is getting his legs back underneath him.”
Head coach Brad Childress concurs on Williams: “The thing that I have seen Tank do is not have any range problems. He is getting to some footballs that you saw him break one up I think a double route where I think we were intentionally trying to trick him and move him out of the middle the other way and then he came back and made a nice play on Aundrae Allison [earlier in the week] on a deep go ball. I haven't seen any ill effects from him and I think what's significant is at this point last year in this camp off of a similar surgery, he had pain, which pain is a tell tale. Sometimes it can't be avoided but usually it points to something. It went back to the OTAs last year; he bumped a knee on a helmet and tried to get it right over the summer but it kind of lingered and then all of a sudden he came up with that broken knee cap here. He has no pain right now and that is important as a player you can go a million miles an hour if you are pain free. So I see him rounding into his old form. He is a big man, he is very smart, and he is getting things organized back there, so he is having a nice camp as well.”
Doss returns from a more serious ACL knee injury but has likewise shown no ill affects from that injury thus far. His familiarity with Frazier is a plus, and he also brings another 46 NFL games of experience.
Blue started a couple games as a rookie last season and the team saw no distinguishable dropoff in overall performance. He’s also a knockout, intimidating hitter with serious upside potential as an in-the-box safety.
Body is virtually unknown to most Viking fans, but has a lot of pure athletic ability and talent. In fact, note his workout numbers coming out of college last season before catching on as an undrafed free agent by the Cincinnati Bengals in 2005: At just over 6-foot-1, he weighs in at 198 pounds and ran as fast as 4.28 over forty yards in pre-draft workouts. In fact, his slowest recorded time was a hardly-pedestrian 4.52. He vertical jumped 42 ½ inches, posted a 10’-4” broad jump with other times of 4.24 (20-yard shuttle), 11.40 (60-yard shuttle) and 6.95 (3-cone drill).
The kid has some ability and has shown flashes in a six-game career with the Bengals and since joining the Vikings.
It’s hard to imagine the 53-man roster having room for six safeties, so things will have to sort themselves out at the position as the regular season approaches. But it’s a good problem to have, and if everyone stays healthy, could give the Vikings some potential trade bait as teams try to finalize their opening season rosters.