For the past few seasons, the secondary has been an area of concern for the Minnesota Vikings. When they finally kicked off the 2012 NFL season with a healthy squad, though, the defensive backfield appeared to be headed in the right direction.
The Vikings’ coverage took a step back on Sunday when starting strong safety Mistral Raymond went down with an ankle injury in the first quarter of their win against the San Francisco 49ers. He was carted off of the field, unable to support himself on the ankle.
Luckily for the Vikings, Raymond’s initial diagnosis is a bone bruise, which means that the second-year safety won’t require surgery. It also means that he has avoided a fracture or high-ankle sprain, both of which would require a significant chunk of the 2012 campaign to recover from.
According to Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier, Raymond subluxed the ankle, which consists of a partial dislocation. Although not as serious as originally believed, Frazier expects his starting strong safety to be out for at least a few weeks.
While Raymond recovers, the Vikings are expected to go with fourth-year safety Jamarca Sanford as the starter across from free safety Harrison Smith.
Sanford, who started 15 games at strong safety for the Viking in 2012, was inched out by Raymond for the starting spot this preseason. When Raymond went down against the 49ers, Sanford did an exemplary job of filling in.
“I though he did a good job when he got in there,” Frazier said of Sanford’s Sunday performance. “He tackled well… He was good on his assignments. I though he did a really good job.”
Despite giving up a big play down the sideline to tight end Vernon Davis, Sanford displayed a strong presence against the run and forced a momentum-shifting fumble from running back Frank Gore. He has his 2011 starting experience to fall back on and shouldn’t be much of a drop off from Raymond in the way of talent.
The only other safety option that the Vikings currently have on the roster is Andrew Sendejo, a third-year man who was signed near the end of the 2011 season. He’s strictly a special teamer who would put the Vikings at a huge disadvantage if forced into extended snaps at safety. If the team deems him as an unlikely candidate to fill in if another injury occurs, free agency could soon become an option.
Sanford should fill the void decently while Minnesota awaits Raymond’s return. That doesn’t mean that the Detroit Lions won’t be looking to exploit that spot, though, when the Vikings come to town next Sunday.