Harrison Smith is a mild-mannered guy around Winter Park and in the locker room. Since arriving in Minnesota, the 1st-round safety has been gracious with his time in doing interviews and participating in community events.
But on Tuesday at Organized Team Activity #8, Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier saw a different side of Smith, even if for a brief moment. And he liked it.
“I don’t know if it’s surprising, but it made me feel pretty good,” Frazier said when asked if he’s seen anything that’s surprised him about Smith. “I saw a play today where he really got angry. He got pretty fired up and you kind of need that out of your defensive backs. You need them to have a little something about them. It was good to see.”
Frazier is a good judge on temperament. He’s a mild-mannered and soft-spoken individual as well, but when he was on the field as a standout NFL defensive back for the Chicago Bears in the 1980s, Frazier had a fierce attitude as well.
While meeting with reporters at Winter Park following Tuesday’s OTA, Frazier was also asked about a couple other safeties on the team’s roster competing for playing time – Robert Blanton and Jamarca Sanford.
Frazier, who called Sanford “one of the best special teams players in the League,” said that consistent open-field tackling will be key for Sanford as will displaying adequate range in pass coverage.
“Probably for Jamarca, just when we get the pads on, that’s when it’ll show up, where his fit will be, whether he’s going to be a starter for us or what role he’ll play,” Frazier said. “That will be the key for him, and being able to show the range in pass defense that we need and if he can get that accomplished in his second year as a potential starter, it’d be good for our defense, but putting the pads on will determine what happens with him down the road.”
As for Blanton, another rookie safety on the roster from Notre Dame, the key is transitioning from playing CB in college to safety in the NFL.
“There are some things you look at and you just know will take a little bit of time, just getting accustomed to being out in space. That’s different for him,” Frazier explained. “When you have the sideline as a twelfth man at times, you don’t have that safety. There’s a lot more space and the angles are a lot different and that takes time, but he’s getting it and we have to continue to expose him to more situations and we’re doing that. I think he’ll get it, but it’s just a matter of how fast it’ll be.”
While going through a position change in your first year in the NFL is certainly a tall task, Frazier refused to write the 2012 season off as just a developmental year for Blanton. He expects Blanton will challenge for serious playing time.
“I don’t look at it as a developmental season,” Frazier said. “This period that we’re in right now is more developmental because it’s not something he’s done very much of, but we’re hoping that he’ll challenge for a starting job and that’s why we drafted him when we did. We want him to challenge for a starting job at safety but it’s just a matter of how fast he’ll come along.”
And don’t forget about Raymond. Frazier wasn’t asked about Raymond on Tuesday, but the 2nd-year safety on Tuesday had one of his best practices to date during OTAs. I saw him get his hands on a few passes and even haul in a couple of INTs. Raymond is in the mix to earn a starting spot as well.
Raymond and Sanford have taken snaps with the first team, but Smith got into that rotation as well this week. It’s too early yet to get a gauge on who has a hold on starting spots at this point because the team is still early in their preparations for the 2012 season and they’re more interested in experimenting with different combinations at this point than they are on deciding on a starting duo.
“That’s exactly what we’re trying to do,” Frazier said. “We started yesterday, we began to rotate guys and mix and match a little bit, just to see how they would gel together and we’ll continue to do it. We have quite a bit of time now before we get to that first game but we want to get a mix and see how guys work together to develop some chemistry in that secondary and that was a part of what happened today.”
Tags: Harrison Smith, Jamarca Sanford, Leslie Frazier, Mistral Raymond, Robert Blanton
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