The Offseason Hype about a Certain Viking Was Justified

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Throughout the long months in the offseason, every media outlet and every pundit produces a list of breakout candidates. For the Minnesota Vikings, there were a few of them, including linebacker Brian Asamoah. After rookie Ivan Pace usurped him on the depth chart, his breakout campaign was canceled or at least postponed.

The Offseason Hype about a Certain Viking Was Justified

The Offseason Hype About 1 Viking Was Justified
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Another frequent pick was safety Josh Metellus, especially after he was a prominent player in the summer. Coaches and teammates kept praising the special teams ace and backup. The main theme was that he belongs on the field, although the starting safety duo Harrison Smith/Camryn Bynum returned from last season.

With the arrival of defensive coordinator Brian Flores, it was expected that he would run some uncommon defenses, and indeed, he found a way to utilize Metellus, either in big nickel packages with him as a slot defender or in dime packages with only one linebacker on the field and Metellus taking over the other spot.

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What might be a huge surprise for folks who only consume the NFL and their favorite team during the season, everyone paying attention between June and September expected something like that to happen.

In June, general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah name-dropped the unsung hero of the team.

Josh Metellus. He’s a safety, and he’ll play some more this year, so I think you’ll see the stuff that we’ve seen. He was a special teams stalwart last year, team-captain type. I was in the team meeting room later in the season after [Brian O’Neill] got hurt, [Metellus] was given team captain … You can feel when somebody’s teammates really love them, really appreciate them and really want to follow them into battle, and he’s one of those guys. He’s everything that the Minnesota Vikings are about, and I think people are really going to appreciate that more this season

And he was right. He has indeed played a lot more, and fans have started to appreciate their defender. Through 12 games, Metellus logged 739 defensive snaps, more than doubling his snaps number from the previous three seasons combined. He has been on the field on 93% of the defensive plays, the fourth-most among Vikings defenders.

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Roughly six months after Adofo-Mensah’s comments, at the beginning of training camp, legendary safety Harrison Smith talked to the media. When asked about his teammate, he applauded him just like his GM did.

You could see it when he first got here. He’s just a guy that no matter where you put him, he’s gonna do everything he can to be the best at that, whether it’s right guard on punt or safety or whatever. He’s a really smart guy and he’s an explosive player that can do a lot of things athletically.

Smith also mentioned that he is learning from Metellus, an interesting claim from the six-time Pro Bowler and potential Hall of Famer at the tail end of his career, but it shows Metellus’ football IQ.

A few days before the season kicked off, the Vikings extended the contract of their backup safety, and folks started to wonder why they would give a backup a new deal when he still has another year left. Well, they did it because he isn’t a backup. He deserved every penny of his new contract.

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Flores utilizes him as a pass-rusher. No other defensive back has had more pass-rush snaps. He also leads defensive backs in QB pressures, QB hits, and QB hurries and has logged a pair of sacks while also forcing some throwaways.

Another area he excels in is tackling. He has already forced three fumbles and made 81 tackles, including five for a loss. And he intercepted Jordan Love.

It is always hard for someone who isn’t a household name to earn accolades in the NFL, and the Pro Bowl is no different. However, Metellus should be in the conversation as he is a big reason why the defense has become one of the best in the business.

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