The Hitman Shall Return
The Minnesota Vikings received encouraging news on Monday, one day after the franchise downed the Detroit Lions 28-24 in a topsy-turvy NFC North showdown.
Safety Harrison Smith, often called The Hitman, has cleared the NFL concussion protocol, according to the Pioneer Press‘ Chris Tomasson, presumably returning in Week 4 for a date in London with the New Orleans Saints.
Tomasson tweeted Monday, “Vikings coach Kevin O’Connell said Harrison Smith has pretty much cleared the concussion protocol and will play in London.”
Smith missed Sunday’s win over Detroit, his first non-COVID-related injury absence since 2016. Josh Metellus filled in for the Vikings veteran, registering a wonderful 82.7 grade from Pro Football Focus. Before the game, NFL Network‘s Tom Pelissero tweeted that Minnesota would split defensive snaps between Metellus and rookie safety Lewis Cine, but Week 3 was The Metellus Show. Cine played zero defensive snaps while seeing action 15 times on special teams.
Although the Vikings were triumphant over the Lions, the defense was suspect without Smith. Then again, though, the defense was suspect with Smith six days prior against the Philadelphia Eagles. Minnesota’s 2022 defense feels like a proverbial work in progress as players adjust and adapt to Ed Donatell’s 3-4 scheme.
Before the concussion, Smith intercepted an Aaron Rodgers pass in Week 1, helping the Vikings get off to the right start in O’Connell’s maiden voyage. In Week 2, Smith logged a career-high 13 tackles. Now, he and the Vikings face a Saints team led by quarterback Jameis Winston and his weapons, Alvin Kamara and Chris Olave. New Orleans’ head coach Dennis Allen in his first year with the team like O’Connell. Allen took over for Sean Payton after his 15-season run.
Smith has played six total games against the Saints in his 11-year career. The Vikings are 3-3 (.500) with him in the lineup. Minnesota’s defense ranks 19th in the NFL per defensive EPA/Play through three weeks.
Sunday’s game against the Saints marks Smith’s third trip to London with the Vikings.
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Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sally from Minneapolis. His Viking fandom dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ and The Doors (the band).