Meet the Frontrunner for the CB2 Spot

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The Vikings enter the 2023 season with a totally new cornerback group. Patrick Peterson and Chandon Sullivan departed in free agency and joined the Pittsburgh Steelers. Cameron Dantzler was waived after three seasons with the organization. The Washington Commanders initially claimed him but released him less than three months later. He recently signed with the Buffalo Bills and is fighting for a roster spot. Duke Shelley left and will play for the Raiders.

Meet the Frontrunner for the CB2 Spot

Meet the Front Runner for the CB2 Spot
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New defensive coordinator Brian Flores must fill all three CB spots. One of them will be obtained by free agent signing Byron Murphy. The defender is a decent player with the upside to become one of the top players at his position, but the other two remaining spots are a mystery for now.

Nonetheless, we have learned something about that mystery in the mandatory minicamp. During team drills, one player had to play at the second outside cornerback spot, and that guy was mostly Akayleb Evans. There is a lot of time reaming before the season kicks off. Training camp and preseason could be significant to determine the CB rankings, and no June depth chart should be used as a sure thing. Regardless, it is Evans who is in the pole position as of right now. It is now on the others to supplant him.

The others are rookie Mekhi Blackmon, second-year player Andrew Booth, and veteran Joejuan Williams. Blackmon is a feisty defender with elite college production at USC. He regularly went up against first-rounder Jordan Addison in practice. Another reason he shouldn’t be counted out is that he was handpicked for this specific system by defensive coordinator Flores in the draft, and he stated that he enjoys playing in Flores’ scheme. He appeared with the first-team defense in the slot as the nickel cornerback but played mostly outside in college.

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Booth could be a decent option. He is just over a year removed from second-round draft status and what many thought was a first-round talent. Injuries slowed him down in his rookie year, robbing him of important developmental time in training camp and the preseason, the start of the season, and the second half of the campaign. He is now healthy and looking much improved, according to teammate K.J. Osborn.

Williams was viewed as a depth piece with an outside chance to make the roster, and if he did, it was because of special teams contributions. However, a couple of months later, Williams has also received some first-team reps. His advantages are his experience and familiarity with Flores’ defense.

as April Arrives
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Regardless, it is currently Evans’ job to lose. Evans came into the league as a fourth-rounder, so nobody expected him to make an impact in his debut season, especially because Peterson, Dantzler, and Booth were on the team. When Dantzler and Booth were hurt, Evans suddenly had to go up against the Commanders and their top wideout Terry McLaurin. He had a couple of pass breakups, one on a crucial fourth down, and fans immediately wanted him to stick with the starting lineup.

Evans suffered a concussion in the next game against Buffalo, and outside of playing 50 snaps against the Jets a few weeks later, another concussion prematurely ended his rookie season. The first-year player appeared in ten games and logged two starts, racking up 23 tackles and a forced fumble on 162 defensive snaps and 91 on special teams.

Besides his one-the-field performance, Evans is urged to improve his tackling form to keep the head out of the play. After suffering three concussions in 2022, he must protect his head to avoid serious problems in his playing career and his everyday life after his playing days are over. ESPN’s Kevin Seifert reported last month that Evans is focusing on his tackling technique to keep his head safe.

Vikings Defense Could Soon Receive Help
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It’s just about how I tackle. My mindset when I tackle is always to be aggressive. But not every tackle has to be a kill shot. … Not every tackle has to be as hard as I can. Just being smart about that. But whenever I do go into making a tackle, just keeping my head out of it, being smart about it and intentional about it. So I’ve been working really hard on that.

Akayleb Evans

The former Mizzou defender will turn 24 on Thursday. He hopefully has a long career ahead of him – possibly as a starting cornerback for the Vikings. The competition for the spot will begin next month when training camp kicks off.

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