Last week, Vikings.com pegged Harrison Smith’s 2012 campaign among the franchise’s top 10 rookie seasons.
The safety has only gained momentum each season, now in year eight and with four Pro Bowl selections and a First-Team All-Pro designation to his name. There’s no debating that Smith is among the top safeties in Vikings history. But is he the best?
Chris Tomasson of the Pioneer Press recently spoke with Hall of Fame safety Paul Krause, who played for Minnesota from 1968-79 and intercepted an NFL-record 81 passes over his career that started in 1964 with Washington.
“That’s a good question,” Krause responded to Tomasson about the debate. “Harrison Smith can be the best strong safety [in Vikings history], but he has not passed me at free safety.”
Tomasson posed the same question to Smith.
“I don’t know if I put myself up there yet,” he told Tomasson. “I think him having 81 picks, I don’t think that’s a record that will ever be touched. I think that’s fair to say [Krause is No. 1], and he’s got a [Pro Football Hall of Fame] jacket.”
View exclusive black-and-white images from the Vikings-Giants game at MetLife Stadium.
Smith, 30, has 21 interceptions in eight seasons, but it’s a much different era. Smith, who has four Pro Bowl appearances, is closing in on Krause, who made six of his eight Pro Bowls with Minnesota. Joey Browner, a strong safety who played with the Vikings from 1983-91, also made six Pro Bowls.
Smith said it was “cool” getting an interception against Oakland at U.S. Bank Stadium on Sept. 22, when the Vikings honored coaches and players off their first Super Bowl team from 50 years ago, and Krause was on hand. Krause had an interception in Minnesota’s Super Bowl IV loss to Kansas City five decades ago.
Tomasson pointed out that the Vikings depth chart lists Smith as strong safety and Anthony Harris at free safety, but Smith said “it’s not that simple” because “both safeties move around constantly.”
Where the hard-hitting Smith does some of his best work is near the line of scrimmage.
“He thinks he’s a linebacker,” Krause said. “He loves playing up there.”
And if you ask Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer, he doesn’t disagree.
“Harrison, number one, he’s a good football player,” Zimmer said. “He could probably play linebacker if we asked him to. He does a lot of different things. He plays in coverage, he plays in the box, he blitzes. He does a lot of different things, so I would never disagree with Paul Krause.”
Vikings pass game, o-line among observations by Philly news outlet
Zimmer pointed out during his Wednesday morning session with media that Philadelphia’s run defense is a stingy one.
The Eagles have allowed opponents just 63.0 rushing yards per contest through five games, which will be a good test for the Vikings, who this year have relied heavily on the ground game but were very balanced against the Giants in Week 5.
Daniel Gallen of Penn Live listed “4 Things That Stand Out” about the Vikings ahead of Sunday’s game, including Minnesota’s passing game. Gallen wrote:
Philadelphia played cornerback Craig James, who had three career defensive snaps entering Week 5, on 97 percent of defensive plays in the 31-6 win over the New York Jets. There wasn’t much for the Eagles to worry about, though, with Robby Anderson, Jamison Crowder and Demariyus Thomas as the Jets top receivers.
[Adam] Thielen and [Stefon] Diggs are different. Thielen had seven catches for 116 yards and a touchdown against the Eagles last season. Diggs had 10 catches for 91 yards in that Vikings win at [Lincoln Financial Field]. Rasul Douglas can be susceptible to speed, while James is still a bit of an unknown quantity. Sidney Jones could make his return from a hamstring injury. Orlando Scandrick had a smashing debut, but he was away from the game for a month.
Look back at photos over the course of time featuring games between the Vikings and the Eagles.
Gallen also noted that the Vikings “revamped offensive line play seems to be going well so far.”
In Minnesota’s win [last season], Philadelphia hit [Kirk] Cousins 11 times, though they sacked him only once. The Vikings running backs gained only 3.2 yards per carry (Cook didn’t play). With [Garrett] Bradbury at center, Pat Elflein at left guard, Josh Kline at right guard, Brian O’Neill at right tackle and [Riley] Reiff still at left tackle, Cousins has been sacked 11 times through five games, and he’s been hit only around three times per game.
Gallen additionally wrote about Cook’s impressive production thus far and said he expects some “good battles” in the teams’ secondaries. He particularly pointed out the matchup between Vikings cornerback Xavier Rhodes and Eagles receiver Alshon Jeffery, who previously was part of the NFC North division.
The two have been battling since Jeffery was with the Chicago Bears earlier this decade, and the wideout has had some success. Last year, Rhodes helped keep Jeffery quiet with two catches on eight targets for 39 yards.