Josh Metellus Defends His Teammate

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Josh Metellus has quietly been the star of the Vikings’ offseason. He drew praise as the “unsung hero” from his general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and could be a dark horse for the second safety spot. At the very least, Metellus will have a role on defense as the third safety and nickel cornerback at times. He is allowed to play multiple positions because of his versatility – an aspect of his game he talked about earlier in the year. Metellus is also a special teams ace and was a team captain late in the 2022 season.

Josh Metellus Defends His Teammate

Defends His Teammate
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Metellus is an up-and-coming player who could earn more snaps. Harrison Smith, meanwhile, has been at the top of the league but is getting past his prime. He is on the downside of his career in one of his final seasons as a professional football player. Smith accepted a pay cut to stay with the organization that drafted him in 2012.

The offseason is the time of rankings and one of the most notable ones every year is ESPN’s position rankings, released by Jeremy Fowler, in which league executives, scouts, and coaches vote for the top 10 players at each position. Smith didn’t make the top 10 list of safeties and Metellus didn’t like that. He expressed his frustration on Twitter:

Vikings fans know how great Smith is and that he should be a Hall of Famer someday. That will be tough, especially because the voters look at the accolades and Smith was unfairly snubbed multiple times.

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The safety is a six-time Pro Bowler but only a one-time first-team All-Pro. He recorded 946 tackles, 16.5 sacks, 43 tackles for loss, and 34 interceptions (the most of all active players tied with Patrick Peterson).

Clicking on Fowler’s article worsens the issue. Smith missed out on the top 10 but also wasn’t included in the seven honorable mentions and in the five more players that “also received votes.”

While Smith is certainly no longer in his prime, he is still a solid football player and it’s hard to believe that there are actually 22 better safeties in football. Now 34 years old, Smith is asked to learn a new defense. He had the same task in 2022 when defensive coordinator Ed Donatell brought his scheme to the Vikings. However, that scheme was not a good fit for Smith.

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His superpower is the ability to play deep and in the box while disguising that at an extremely high level. Aaron Rodgers called him the best player in the league at disguising during the 2021 season.

I think the way that he disguises should probably be standard secondary teaching tape. He’s I think the best in the game at that and when you add to it, he’s a really good blitzer. He’s got a number of sacks over the years and then you add to that he’s a great tackler. And then you add to that, he’s got great ball skills. He’s definitely the total package. I’ve played against him for a long time, I have a ton of respect for him. He is the most difficult person I think in the league to determine whether or not he’s blitzing, what he’s doing on certain plays.

Aaron Rodgers

Bill Belichick also praised him in 2018: “He does a great job with pre-snap disguise. He’s up there with Ed Reed and Troy Polamalu. He’s a disruptive player before the ball is snapped.”

In Donatell’s defense, he was asked to almost exclusively play deep. Flores likes his safety to blitz, so that should be a better match. In addition to that, the new defensive coordinator wants his defense to be versatile and Smith is the perfect piece for that approach. The safety has already praised his new coach for his aggressive mindset.

According to PFF, Smith lined up as a free safety more often in 2022 than in every season of his career except 2012 and 2014. His snap count in the box was the lowest since 2016 and he had the second-lowest pass-rush snaps, only trailing 2013.

A fascinating storyline to follow in the summer is the competition for the remaining spot next to Smith. It could once again be Camryn Bynum who started in 2022 but struggled more often than not. Last year’s first-rounder Lewis Cine returns from his horrific injury and Metellus is a rising star who played well in three starts in 2022.

Smith turned 34 years old in February and usually doesn’t care about rankings and awards. Seeing his teammates stick up for the veteran shows the respect he has in the locker room and Rodgers’ quote shows the level of respect he has earned around the league over the years.

Janik Eckardt is a football fan who likes numbers and stats. The Vikings became his favorite team despite their quarterback at the time, Christian Ponder. He is a walking soccer encyclopedia, loves watching sitcoms, and Classic rock is his music genre of choice. Follow him on Twitter if you like the Vikings: @JanikEckardt