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Updated: August 18th, 2014 1:20pm
Notebook: Blanton set to return, further clouding starting safety spot

Notebook: Blanton set to return, further clouding starting safety spot

by Derek Wetmore
1500ESPN.com
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- The Vikings still don't have clarity at a couple key positions heading into the third preseason game. Head coach Mike Zimmer said Monday that he's still not sure about the second safety positions, the third cornerback, or his starting middle linebacker.

He rotated Jasper Brinkley and Audie Cole at middle linebacker with the other first-team linebackers (Chad Greenway and Anthony Barr). He'll continue to evaluate that position in the third preseason game, when the Vikings travel to Kansas City to play the Chiefs.

Perhaps the area that deserves more attention at this point is the secondary. Captain Munnerlyn and Xavier Rhodes will start at cornerback, but when the Vikings are in nickel and Munnerlyn slides into the slot, who will fill his spot on the outside?

The candidates, it would seem, are Marcus Sherels, Derek Cox, Jabari Price, Josh Robinson and Shaun Prater.

Prater left Saturday's game with a "mild concussion" and Zimmer said he expects him to be cleared to practice Tuesday. Jabari Price left late in Saturday's game with an undisclosed injury and will not play this week, Zimmer said. Robert Blanton missed significant time in training camp with a hamstring injury. Zimmer said he expects him to practice Monday. When asked for an update on Blanton and Josh Robinson (hamstring), Zimmer gave an update on Blanton and added: "And the other guy? Who knows."

Zimmer also said near the end of training camp in specific reference to Robinson that you "can't make the club in a tub."

Who's with Smith?

Zimmer mentioned four safeties last week that he wanted to further evaluate before deciding who will start opposite Harrison Smith: Chris Crocker, Andrew Sendejo, Kurt Coleman and Jamarca Sanford. Saturday's game, however, didn't provide an ample opportunity to evaluate them where it's most important -- in coverage.

He said he'd like to have a chance to further evaluate those players before making a decision who will start Week 1 with Smith.

Zimmer said he's looking for his two safeties to be "interchangeable," but in reality the Vikings might be best suited having a safety that complements Smith's skills. That would mean finding the best guy in coverage. It could be one of those four or Robert Blanton might factor in now that he's slated to return.

"We try to be interchangeable the best we can," Zimmer said. "Our guys have to provide run support, get in on some slot receivers, be able to blitz. We're not looking for one-dimensional guys. We're not looking for the old in-the-box safeties. They have to have some intelligence. Really, we want all our guys back there to be the same guy," Zimmer said.

Cassel will start

Matt Cassel will start the third preseason game for the Vikings on Saturday in Kansas City. Zimmer continues to say that he has a date in mind for when he'll announce his week 1 starter, but he's not yet divulging when that will be. The safe bet is that it will be Cassel.

Zimmer also said that it's a possibility Bridgewater will see work with the first-team offense Saturday.

Cassel worked the entire first half in the second preseason game, and Bridgewater began the second half, once the offensive starters had been removed.

Late hits

--Linval Joseph">Linval Joseph (calf) was at Monday's walk-through and did not participate. Mike Zimmer said he doubts Joseph will play Saturday. He is rehabbing and within that Zimmer said Joseph is "doing more increased things."

--Gerald Hodges "probably will not play this week," Zimmer said. He was icing his left ankle after Saturday's game, but said it would not cause him to miss time. Zimmer said Hodges is dealing with a knee injury.

Derek Wetmore is the senior editor for 1500ESPN.com. His previous stops include MLB.com and the Minnesota Daily.
Email Derek | @DerekWetmore
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