MINNEAPOLIS — One of the Minnesota Vikings' biggest question marks entering training camp was who was going to step in to start at the safety position opposite standout Harrison Smith.
One month, four preseason games and two roster cutdowns later, the question remains.
The Vikings released veterans Chris Crocker and Kurt Coleman and placed Jamarca Sanford, who started 41 games for them over the previous three seasons, on injured reserve on Saturday night, leaving them light on experience at safety as the season opener against St. Louis approaches.
Longtime defensive lineman Fred Evans was also among the final cuts as the Vikings chose to go younger at defensive tackle behind starters Linval Joseph and Sharrif Floyd. They also cut guard Jeff Baca, defensive tackles Chase Baker and Isame Faciane, receivers Kain Colter and Donte Foster, running backs Joe Banyard and Dominique Williams, tight ends Chase Ford and Allen Reisner, linebackers Justin Jackson and Mike Zimmer, cornerback Kendall James, center Zac Kerin, tackle Mike Remmers and defensive end Justin Trattou.
They also placed rookie tackle Antonio Richardson on injured reserve with an undisclosed injury.
The Vikings open the season in St. Louis on Sept. 7, but the roster moves are by no means over.
As it stands, Robert Blanton, who has three starts in his first three years in the league and was bothered by injuries for much of the preseason himself, is atop the depth chart at strong safety. They also have Andrew Sendejo and sixth-round draft pick Antone Exum as safeties behind Smith, a budding star at the position.
Sanford was drafted in the seventh round in 2009 and has spent the last three seasons as one of the team's starting safeties. His best season came in 2011 when he had 118 tackles and his only two career interceptions.
But Sanford missed much of the offseason workouts with injury. Then he injured his quad two weeks ago against Kansas City and had to miss the preseason finale against Tennessee on Thursday night.
Crocker played for new coach Mike Zimmer while he was a defensive coordinator in Atlanta and Cincinnati. Given the instability at safety, Zimmer brought Crocker in during training camp to try to solidify the spot and help the younger players learn the system.
But the 34-year-old didn't get on the field enough in the preseason and now may look to retire after contemplating walking away each of the last two seasons.
Evans broke into the league with the Dolphins in 2006, but after some problems off the field led to his exit from Miami, the Vikings brought him in to add depth to the defensive line. He wound up staying for seven seasons, becoming a valuable and versatile backup. But he will be 31 in November and the Vikings have been impressed with some of the younger players on the defensive line, including seventh-round draft pick Shamar Stephen.