Matt Daniels Expects Popular Breakout Candidate to Stay On His Unit

Matt Daniels Is a Self-Confessed Flower Grower
Matt Daniels

There are a few breakout candidates on Minnesota’s roster. Alexander Mattison jumps into the starting lineup for the first time because of Dalvin Cook’s departure, and last year’s top pick Lewis Cine can finally show that he was rightfully drafted with the 32nd overall pick. However, one player on the team is drawing all the praise this year after spending his career as a true unsung hero.

Matt Daniels Expects Popular Breakout Candidate to Stay On His Unit

Matt Daniels Expects Popular Breakout Candidate to Stay on His Unit
Jan 1, 2023; Green Bay, Wisconsin, USA; Green Bay Packers punter Pat O’Donnell (16) has his punt blocked by Minnesota Vikings defender Josh Metellus (44) during the first quarter of their game at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Mark Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

Cine’s safety partner with the second-team defense, Josh Metellus, has been stealing the show all offseason, drawing praise from Brian Flores, Harrison Smith, and Kwesi Adofo-Mensah. He has been an important member of the special team group for years but flew under the radar as such. Kris Boyd became a fan favorite but it was really Metellus who was the star of that group.

In 2022, he stepped in on defense for Smith who missed three games, although Cine was available to replace him in Week 3. Still, it was Metellus getting the starting duties and he played well, looking like he deserved more time on the field.

With the arrival of Flores as the new defensive coordinator, Metellus is expected to play a larger role on defense, not just when someone else gets hurt. He is envisioned to play in sets that feature three safety, a so-called ‘big nickel’ package. In that case, he would virtually play as the slot cornerback. His ability to play all over the field is a big advantage for Flores who wants to play a versatile defense. Metellus stated during OTAs that he has learned the whole defense, not just his position, allowing Flores to play him in many different roles.

kevin o'connell hints more
Dec 11, 2022; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Detroit Lions wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown (14) is tackled by Minnesota Vikings safety Josh Metellus (44) during the second half at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: David Reginek-USA TODAY Sports

Because of his elevated status as a defensive player, some folks questioned if he would keep his prominent role in the special teams group. Coordinator Matt Daniels was asked about that but he expects his star to play for him and Flores.

I would say I expect [to have] Metellus the exact same amount as I did last year. And he understands and knows that – coach Flores talks about it all the time – conditioning presides over all and that is part of the conditioning aspect of it. We have to be trained and ready to take on 30 special team snaps while also being able to take on 30 defensive snaps. And Metellus is built for that and he’ll do an unbelievable job. He’s a captain of that unit and he’ll continue having the impact as he usually does.

Matt Daniels
The Vikings Have a Brand
Oct 2, 2022; London, United Kingdom; Minnesota Vikings safety Josh Metellus (44) during the NFL International Series game at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Peter van den Berg-USA TODAY Sports

Metellus was named team captain at the end of last season after Brian O’Neill went down with his injury, showing the respect Metellus has in the organization and in the locker room. Smith recently praised Metellus for his leadership and football IQ, saying that the 25-year-old could run meetings as a coach and even he can learn from his younger teammate. His continued presence on both the defense and the special teams will be a boost for both groups.

It will continue to be a fascinating storyline of how the roles in the safety position room evolve over the time of training camp. Cine is now fully healthy and made some splashy plays. The Vikings might be in a position to have four solid safeties to choose from.

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