Last season the Minnesota Vikings’ secondary was undoubtedly a significant weakness. Despite that, the front office did not spend big money on defensive backs in free agency and went down the route of drafting their future. Because of that, it will be interesting to see how the final depth chart shakes out by the time the season kicks off.
The Vikings will likely only have two returning starters from last season in their secondary, Harrison Smith and Patrick Peterson. Two players with historic careers that will forever be celebrated but have lost a step. Still, they are locks to be starts come gameday because of their leadership abilities, knowledge of the game, and of course, they still have some youth left in them.
So assuming that is true, that would leave one starting corner position and one starting safety position left to be filled in the Vikings’ base 3-4 defense.
Starting at the second safety position should be Lewis Cine, the rookie out of Georgia. Cine will not be handed the position simply because he was a first-round selection. However, with Xavier Woods gone, it won’t take much for Cine to claim his role in this Vikings defense.
Lastly, I believe Andrew Booth Jr. will be in the second starting corner position.
This is assuming that Booth can get himself healthy in time for training camp and the preseason. Because if he can’t, Cam Dantzler will be the obvious choice.
However, if Booth is healthy during training camp and is allowed the chance to compete for the starting position, then I think he will win it. Booth is a highly talented prospect, and if it weren’t for his injury history, he would’ve been a first-round pick. Luckily for the Vikings, Booth slipped in the draft because of those injuries and they were able to select him in the second round.
Unlike these past few seasons, the Vikings will have depth in the secondary this upcoming season at both the safety and corner positions.
At safety, Camryn Bynum will be able to fill in for either Harrison Smith or Lewis Cine. Last season we saw Bynum start in 3 games, and he was awfully impressive for a 4th round rookie. Unfortunately for Bynum, the Vikings selected Lewis Cine with the 32nd pick in this year’s draft, who will likely start ahead of him.
We might also be able to see more of Bynum if the Vikings continue with the three-safety formation they experimented with last season when injuries were plaguing the secondary. However, with a new coaching regime this year, I wouldn’t count on it.
At the corner position, the Vikings will also have more depth than in past seasons, with names like the aforementioned Cam Dantzler and Akayleb Evans waiting in the wings.
Dantzler will provide the Vikings with a proven corner who can step in at any time and perform just as well as a starter. In comparison, Evans will be far less polished but could show flashes of his potential.
For those who aren’t aware, when NFL teams are in their base defense, it means there are only four defensive backs on the field.
A base defense is often a 3-4 or 4-3. The first number denotes the number of defensive linemen, and the second represents the number of linebackers. The Vikings will run a 3-4 next season.
On the other hand, a nickel defense provides the defense with another defensive back in place of a linebacker, often known as a “slot corner.” This formation is often used on long second and third downs or when the opposing offense uses three wide receiver sets. Defenses spend so much time in their nickel packages that we should acknowledge the fifth defensive back who’ll occupy the slot.
So when the Vikings get into nickel defense, it should be expected that Chandon Sullivan, who was signed this offseason, will be playing in the slot corner position. Sullivan is a solid veteran who will likely be an improvement to a struggling Mackensie Alexander.
Backing him up will likely be Harrison Hand, who has spent the past two seasons with the Vikings in a backup role, recording his only start back in 2020.
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