Vikings Secondary Named Best in NFL

Oct 10, 2021; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings free safety Xavier Woods (23) and safety Harrison Smith (22) break up a Detroit Lions pass during the second half at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The offseason is ranking-season. Everything gets ranked, the best players in football, the best teams, the best drafts, the best offseasons, the best quarterbacks, and the best secondary in the NFL, where the Vikings should not be very high after struggling in recent history.

On ESPN’s Sports Center, former Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly and two-time Super Bowl champion Booger McFarland were asked to name the best units on the defensive side.

The Best Front-Seven in NFL

Booger McFarland started to name the top defensive line in the NFL when he chose the Washington Commanders with their star pass rusher, Chase Young. Meanwhile, Luke Kuechly identified the San Francisco 49ers’ front four as the best in the league. Like Chase Young, 49ers pass rusher Nick Bosa played for Ohio State.

When asked about the best group of linebackers, Luke Kuechly, a phenomenal linebacker himself, selected the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Lavonte David and Devin White are great linebackers and the engine of the dominant Buccaneers defense. They are not just excellent players but complement each other pretty well. McFarland agreed with Kuechly and also deemed the Buccaneers as the top linebacking group.

The Top Secondary in the NFL

However, they disagreed when they talked about the best secondaries in the NFL. Booger McFarland has the Buffalo Bills secondary on top of his list. They were the top passing defense in the NFL last season despite Tre’Davious White, their star cornerback, only playing in 11 games. They led the league by almost 400 yards in passing yards allowed. Poyer and Hyde are two excellent safeties, and they have addressed the secondary in the draft by selecting Kaiir Elam, the cornerback from Florida, in the first round.

Following McFarland’s logical pick by choosing the best passing defense of last season, Luke Kuechly went in a different direction.

Carolina Panthers middle linebacker Luke Kuechly. Syndication: Cincinnati. Bengals Panther 10122014 37.

He picked one of the worst passing defenses in the previous two seasons as the best secondary in the NFL, the Minnesota Vikings.

“I’m gonna go with the Vikings. Harrison Smith, Patrick Peterson, two young rookies – Lewis Cine out of Georgia, Andrew Booth out of Clemson. I think when you talk about young guys coming into the league, the one important thing is, who do they learn from. You learn from two guys that have played at All-Pro levels for such a long time. I’m excited to see the young with some old. Patrick Peterson – great ball production. Harrison Smith [is] kind of a two-way player, [as he] can play in the run game but also had great ball production in his career with interceptions and forced fumbles.

That’s one thing that I’ve learned a lot when I was young in the league with a guy like Thomas Davis. He showed me the ropes, he showed me, how to be productive and with these two guys coming in with Patrick Peterson and Harrison Smith, I think they will be really excited about it.”

Luke KuechlyESPN Sports Center

A Football Savant

Luke Kuechly played in the league for eight years, all for the Carolina Panthers. He earned rookie of the year honors in 2012 and was the defensive player of the NFL in 2013, the third-youngest player to win the award.

In his short career, he managed to tackle opponents 1,092 times, along with 18 interceptions. He was a seven-time Pro Bowler and five-time first-team All-Pro. Kuechly made a name for himself as a linebacker who calls out the offensive play call pre-snap and adjusts his defense in the right way. In 2016 against the Rams, Kuechly apparently called out 65% of the Rams’ plays. He was always viewed as one of the smartest players in football, and his opinion should be taken seriously.

However, the Vikings have to prove him right after he named them the best secondary in the NFL. The passing stats against the team in the last two years were dreadful. Since 2020, the Vikings rank 27th in passing yards allowed. In 2021, they were 29th, only trailing the Ravens, Seahawks, and Jets.

What Does the Secondary Look Like in 2022?

The organization tried to fix some of the problems by addressing the secondary in the draft and free agency. Patrick Peterson was re-signed. He is no longer the All-Pro caliber cornerback he used to be but is still a solid player.

Cameron Dantzler had some great games in his first two years in the NFL, and his PFF grade was the highest among Vikings cornerbacks in both seasons. However, Mike Zimmer didn’t seem to have much confidence in him, and he landed in the doghouse of the defensive back guru. Getting him out of there might result in a huge spike in confidence and therefore improved play. He certainly has shown to have the potential to be one of the best players at his position in the league.

Dec 6, 2020; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings defensive back Cameron Dantzler. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

In the slot, the Vikings signed two players — Nate Hairston, who played for the Broncos last season, and Chandon Sullivan, the former Packer. Last year’s slot guy Mackensie was not re-signed. Chandon Sullivan is the favorite to be the top slot cornerback.

But Kwesi Adofo-Mensah did not only address the secondary in free agency but also in the draft. Andrew Booth and Lewis Cine were the top two selections of the Vikings.

Harrison Smith is obviously one starting safety. The national champion, Lewis Cine, has to compete with Camryn Bynum, who has shown flashes in 2021, for the other safety spot. However, first-round picks usually start.

Andrew Booth Jr, the former Clemson cornerback, has to compete with Cameron Dantzler and Patrick Peterson. Peterson is not getting any younger, and Dantzler is still relatively unproven. Booth is a first-round talent who fell in the draft because of injury concerns. If he’s healthy, he’ll help the Vikings short-term and long-term.

Improved but Unproven

The unit looks much improved on paper, but they have to show improvement during the season to give the team a chance to succeed in 2022. Danielle Hunter and Za’darius Smith will play a role in the performance of the secondary as well. A good pass rush is the best way to make a defensive back’s job much more manageable. However, naming the Vikings unit as the best secondary in the NFL appears premature.

Janik Eckardt is a football fan who has a fable for numbers and stats. He chose the Vikings as his favorite team, despite Christian Ponder being the quarterback at the time. He is a walking soccer encyclopedia and Classic rock is his music genre of choice. Arguing about the Vikings on Twitter is one of his favorite things to do. Follow him on Twitter if you like the Vikings: @JanikEckardt