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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Following Pro Bowl snub, Vikings coaches explain Harrison Smith’s impact

By Matthew Coller

Safety is one of the tougher positions to evaluate by using statistics or judging by hype from color analysts. Many times, a great play by a safety can keep a quarterback from throwing in his direction or force a runner back into other players.

Pro Football Focus grades don’t always tell the full story either. They don’t adjust for opponent or give context to the grades, which can throw off those using them for the be-all, end-all.

But in Harrison Smith’s case, all the information available matches up. He’s got splash plays – three INTs, two sacks, nine passes defended and five tackles for loss. He’s got PFF’s approval as the No. 1 rated safety. And, as Minnesota Vikings coaches explain, he’s got the intangible impact as well.

“Harry pays attention to the details of everything, from week-to-week,” defensive coordinator George Edwards said Thursday. “Understanding No. 1 what we’re trying to do. Understanding what teams are going to try to do to us. Does a great job of communication, helping us get lined up, and different pass offs and coverages and those kind of things. He’s a heck of a player around the line of scrimmage and he does an excellent job on the backend for us. In our opinion he’s a really good player for us.”

Smith has given opponents nightmares with his ability to line up all over the field. When he’s up in the box, the Vikings’ star safety makes plays in the run game and blows up screens, as he did notably against the Atlanta Falcons. when he’s deep, he reacts quickly to opponents’ route combinations and the quarterback’s mannerisms. Smith is also called upon to face wide receivers or tight ends man-to-man at the line, which he does effectively.

“Most guys are probably better at doing one or the other, but he has the ability and athleticism to do both,” Edwards said.

Offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur has seen Smith every day in practice over the last two seasons. The Vikings’ OC talked Thursday about the challenges he presents for an offense.

“Playing against him would be a challenge because he’s good in the backend, he’s got excellent ball skills, so on those tipped balls and over throws he can finish the play with the ball in his hands,” Shurmur said. “He’s an excellent tackler and then when he plays man-to-man he’s a matchup problem because of his size on your tight ends. Certainly he’s a tough one to go against.”

Shurmur explained that Smith’s location is one of the first things that opposing quarterbacks look for when they get to the line of scrimmage.

“We need to know if he’s in the quarters, in the half, or in the middle of the field,” Shurmur said. “And in Harry’s case, a lot of times he’s down low, certainly. That’s part of the quarterback’s checklist, to check the cushion of the corners and location of the safeties, so our eyes would be on him.”

However, QBs have a tough time diagnosing where Smith is going to be because he often moves late in the snap count, causing his opponent to hesitate.

“The read for them is a little bit slower usually,” Zimmer said. “So when they start to drop back and they are looking at the one safety and he moves to another spot, then they have to change where the coverage is being dictated to throw the ball.”

Pro Bowl or no Pro Bowl, Smith is an elite player at his position and toward the top of the list of irreplaceable players on the Vikings’ No.2 overall defense.

The post Following Pro Bowl snub, Vikings coaches explain Harrison Smith’s impact appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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