Jabari Price's study habits impress, but next step is to think less
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MANKATO, Minn. - Jabari Price's iPad has become an extension of his arm during the Minnesota Vikings training camp, but his style of learning still requires a pen and paper.
Though Price, 21, was the Vikings' final draft pick in the seventh round (225th overall) of May's NFL Draft, he's impressed coaches with his willingness to learn new positions on defense and special teams.
"iPad is so visual. I still have to have my notebook to write it down," Price said. "I learn by writing down. The iPad serves a purpose, but not so much as writing it down. I have a lot of papers. When I write it down, it just marks in my head."
Price's papers have helped him learn the nickel cornerback role under first-year coach Mike Zimmer. Price played the slot role as a junior Tar Heel, but played solely on the outside during his 13 games as a senior in 2013.
His physical attributes leave something to be desired. Price stands at about 5-foot-10, weighing roughly 200 pounds and had just two career interceptions at UNC. But his technique has led to a few extra reps with the first-team defense while Captain Munnerlyn, the Vikings' primary slot corner, has sat out with a hamstring injury.
"He's doing a pretty nice job, really," Zimmer said. "He's done a nice job in everything. Outside, done a good job. In nickel, done a good job. Anytime you can hit on a seventh-round corner, that's huge. We don't know if we've hit yet, but he's got some toughness to him...He's got some fight to him."
That's what the Vikings are looking for in their nickel corner, a role that requires you to read the backfield and provide run support as much as defend the receiver across the line of scrimmage.
Munnerlyn excelled in that role in Carolina, allowing an average of 19 yards after the catch per game last season, per ProFootballFocus.com. The Vikings felt the hole Antoine Winfield left when he was cut before 2013, as Josh Robinson allowed more YAC (360) than Munnerlyn (330) in seven fewer games.
"[Price] still has work to do, he's not perfect," Munnerlyn said. "In the nickel position, you have to learn to be patient and be able to put your hands on people...I'm not an Antoine Winfield where I knock you out, but I do make the tackle. If I give up a pass, I'm going to tackle you right now, no YAC yards. That's what I pride myself on."
Munnerlyn has helped Price with the ropes in learning NFL route concepts as he brings along the young corner as he's split reps as the backup slot corner with Shaun Prater, who was drafted by Zimmer's Cincinnati Bengals in 2012. Sixth-round pick Kendall James has also seen snaps in the slot.
After working on the outside during his senior season, the switch back to the nickel role has been an adjustment for Price - but his stack of papers in the dorm room has helped prepare him.
"You're taking a tunnel vision corner who plays man to a just an inside corner that basically has to see everything that happens before the play even starts," Price said. "It requires a lot of studying at night time, a lot of studying over the break before training camp. I prepared myself for it, I'm ready for the test."
But outside of Anthony Barr, the Vikings' top overall pick, Price has been the unproven defensive player that has received the most praise from the coaching staff. Special teams coordinator Mike Priefer has placed Price on all four phases after he was featured on just the punt team in college.
Price's performance on special teams will be critical for his chances to make the final 53-man roster. Through Priefer's eyes, his studying habits have helped him - but the next step is to make those cerebral notes second nature.
"[Price] is taking notes in all the meetings, asks a lot of good questions," Priefer said. "But again, he is one of those guys where it's so important to him, sometimes he will slow down because he's thinking too much."