Jamarca Sanford had been a solid special teams contributor for the Minnesota Vikings through his first three seasons, but the fact he started 15 games in 2011 had more to do with the team’s sad situation at safety then his own good play. 2012 looked like a potential make-or-break season for the former seventh-round pick, and when Mistral Raymond beat him out during training camp to become Minnesota’s starting strong safety things did not look good.
But Raymond was sidelined by an ankle injury in Week 3 against the San Francisco 49ers, and Sanford started the final 13 regular season games, had 61 total tackles and wound up forcing a team-leading four fumbles while also maintaining his role on special teams. He has drawn high marks from general manager Rick Spielman for his development as a team leader, so it was not too surprising that the two sides agreed on a two-year, $5 million deal in March to keep Sanford in the fold.
The financial investment the Vikings have made in Sanford, and the fact he is coming off his best season, virtually guarantees he will be starting alongside free safety Harrison Smith come Week 1. Raymond could keep himself in the mix to start with a strong (and fully healthy) showing during training camp and preseason games, but I think it’s more likely he will transition to taking some of Sanford’s time on special teams as their roles reverse.
The Vikings have other players with more recognizable names across their defense that will grab more headlines in 2013, but Sanford has a good opportunity to take another step in his career and become a significant contributor in his own right this season.
Brad Berreman is a contributing writer at Rant Sports.com. Follow him on Twitter @bradberreman24.