Safety First Continued: Harrison Smith Continues Progression

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 15, 2012 – 5:56 pm

Mistral Raymond: He’s Got The Look
Harrison Smith: Progression Continues

Our daily look at three players vying for starting safety positions continues today with analysis of Harrison Smith.

The Vikings came into the 2012 NFL Draft with one first-round pick, but after some wheeling and dealing they emerged from the first-round with a pair of selections. The second first-round pick was S Harrison Smith, an instinctive tackling machine out of Notre Dame who will improve the Vikings safety position.

Smith is a mild-mannered individual around Winter Park and in the locker room, but he’s entirely different on the field. Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier saw that edge from Smith during the offseason program, and he liked it.

“I saw a play where he really got angry,” Frazier said. “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.”

Alan Williams, the Vikings new defensive coordinator, agreed that Smith has an edge to him and also commented that the rookie is an intelligent player

“I love that, Williams said. “You want your safeties to be quarterbacks and smart, but you want some nastiness to them too. And he has that.”

As a first-round pick, the expectation is for Smith to begin the season as a starter at safety. Smith could be the opening-day starter at one safety spot, but one sure thing is he won’t be handed that responsibility. Williams wants Smith to ascend to the top of the depth chart on the strength of his on-field performance rather than the label of a first-round pick.

“When guys come in and they’re new, especially rookies, I like to have them earn their spot,” Williams said. “Even though Harrison (Smith) is doing well and some of the other guys are doing well, it’s important that guys earn the spot, that I don’t make the decision, the decision is made based on what we see on tape. When he earns a spot, that’s when he’ll play.”

Judging by Smith’s performance so far, that won’t be long from now. He played well in the Vikings preseason debut against San Francisco last week, and that might lead to increased playing time in this Friday’s preseason game against the Buffalo Bills.

“He played well,” Williams said. “The game wasn’t too big for him. He looked like he belonged out there. Again, we want to see that same thing (Friday night). Can he get lined up? Can he communicate to the defense? Can he operate within the defense and can he do that on a consistent basis? When a play comes at him can he make the play?”

If Smith’s performance on Friday night causes the Vikings coaching staff to answer those questions in the affirmative, then Smith will be in a position to help the Vikings defense answer their biggest question – can the pass defense improve from last year?

After ranking 26th in overall passing defense and 32nd in passing touchdowns allowed in 2012, it can’t get much worse. But with Smith in the fold, the Vikings passing defense figures to be much, much better.

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CB Robinson To Get Extended Look On Friday

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 15, 2012 – 1:40 pm

Josh Robinson looked good playing at the University of Central Florida, where he was a two-time All Conference USA first teamer with 10 INTs and 36 passes broken up in three seasons. Robinson looked good at the 2012 Scouting Combine, where he was the fastest player time in the 40-yard dash. And Robinson looked good during the Vikings rookie minicamp, Organized Team Activities and mandatory minicamp this spring at Winter Park.

But Robinson didn’t get any looks last Friday in the Vikings preseason opener against the San Francisco 49ers. As a precaution, the team held him out of action because of a hamstring injury that hampered him earlier in camp.

This Friday should be a different story, however. Robinson is slated to see plenty of action against the Buffalo Bills.

“I don’t know if he’ll get first team reps, but we’ll try to get him a number of snaps so we can evaluate him and so he’ll be able to evaluate himself and find out what the pro game is all about,” Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier said. “And he wants to win a starting spot, so we want to see him go out there and work and get some snaps against some good receivers and be able to gauge where he is at the end of this ball game. We’re looking forward to watching him play.”

Fans should be looking forward to watching him play, too. Robinson is speedy and quick. He can play defense and special teams. Whether he intercepts a pass or fields a kickoff or punt, Robinson has the explosiveness to be a playmaker for the Vikings.

“He can close and go from point A to point B as fast as anybody we have, or that I’ve seen,” Frazier said. “His closing speed is outstanding.

Of course, we all know he had the fastest time at the Combine, but it shows up on the football field. A lot of guys can run fast straight ahead but it doesn’t show up when you put pads on. But in his case, it shows up.”

From the looks of it so far, Robinson has all the physical traits to be a contributor for the Vikings. The question now, and the question that the Vikings will begin to answer on Friday night when Robinson makes his NFL debut, is about the non-physical part of the game.

“He has great closing speed,” Frazier explained, “but now it’s a matter of ‘can he handle some of the things that come at him, formations, routes, terminology?’ There are so many things that have to come in to play to be a big time corner in our league.

“It’ll be a big test for him. He’s anxious to get out there and perform and show everyone that he’s capable of playing at this level.”

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