In the last few weeks before the Minnesota Vikings begin training camp, we're going to take a look at a number of players on their roster with something to prove this season, excluding rookies. We will focus primarily on veterans or players being asked to assume a larger role this season. Today: safety Jamarca Sanford.
Why he has something to prove: Sanford missed three games last season and struggled through hamstring and groin injuries for a good chunk of the season, and Andrew Sendejo played well enough in Sanford's absence to make the safety position opposite Harrison Smith an open question heading into this season. Sanford took a pay cut this offseason, and wasn't able to make much of an impression during the Vikings' organized team activities and minicamp because of a muscle pull that kept him out of team drills for most of the spring. That meant Robert Blanton got plenty of work alongside Smith, and with Sendejo, Kurt Coleman and rookie Antone Exum in the mix, Sanford will have plenty of competition for a starting spot.
What he must do: Sanford has been one of the Vikings' best safeties in coverage, and that could come in handy this season as the Vikings toy with the idea of putting their safeties in man coverage more often. That would allow them to stay in their base defense instead of bringing in a nickel back, and Sanford can make a case there if he's healthy enough to keep up with receivers this season. He gave up just 0.33 yards per snap of pass coverage last season, according to Pro Football Focus. Though Sendejo was just behind Sanford, ranking 10th in the league with 0.34 yards per coverage snap, Sanford has a longer resume. If he's able to fare well against receivers in training camp and the preseason, it might help him make his case.
Projection: It wouldn't be surprising to see Sanford bumped out of a starting spot, as much competition with as there will be at safety and as interested in Blanton as the Vikings seemed to be this spring. But the guess here is Sanford will win the job to begin the season by a narrow margin, and get a chance to work toward his next contract, whether it's with the Vikings or someone else.