One Versatile Vikings Defender Shouldn’t Be Counted Out

rise of josh
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The Vikings are in a transformation period to improve the horrendous 2022 defense, a unit that cost the Vikings their postseason win and, therefore, a more successful season.

Brian Flores was hired to replace dismissed defensive coordinator Ed Donatell and six starting defenders departed. Among those are a bunch of players in the secondary.

One Versatile Vikings Defender Shouldn’t Be Counted Out

The whole cornerback group is no longer on the team. Patrick Peterson, Cameron Dantzler, and Chandon Sullivan were the top guys on the depth chart entering the season, while Duke Shelley subbed in later in the year. All five players will suit up for different franchises in the upcoming campaign.

A unit that didn’t change, the only one on defense, is the safety group. All four rostered safeties at the beginning of last season are still with the team. As usual, franchise legend Harrison Smith starts at one spot while the other is somewhat vacant. Camryn Bynum filled the second starting spot in 2022, which came surprisingly considering general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah selected Lewis Cine, a national champion, in the draft’s first round. Bynum is once again the guy to beat.

One Versatile Vikings
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Cine was widely expected to enter the season as a starter or at least replace Bynum at some point. However, Cine suffered a season-ending injury in Week 4. But even when Smith missed a game, Josh Metellus joined the starting group — not Cine.

Metellus could be an essential player in the upcoming season. The 25-year-old started three games for the Vikes in 2022 and played in all 17. He logged 258 defensive snaps and 381 on special teams, where he excels. Metellus made 42 tackles and caught the game-sealing interception against the Lions. PFF graded him as the second-best Vikings defender, only behind Danielle Hunter, with an elite 85.1.

When Smith didn’t participate in OTAs, it was once again Metellus who took his spot and not the fully recovered second-year player Cine. He’s currently third in the pecking order, but his versatility is also shining, as he can line up everywhere on defense. On any given play, he could be a linebacker, a cornerback, or a safety, which will open up even more opportunities for the defender in his fourth season.

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During OTAs, the defender was asked if it is tough to be able to play every position:

So far I’ve played nickel and safety, so I’ve moved around. I played in dime last year a little bit. It was already on tape that I can play those spots.

Yeah but I love football. So learning the whole defense, I was planning on doing that anyways. Now they are telling me to do it so it is falling to what I was already planning to do. It’s just learning the defense as a whole instead of just my spot at safety.

Josh Metellus

His ability to play at multiple spots will help him receive reps during the season. He can line up at a different position on any given week or play. He could be the top backup for more than just one spot. Flores is known for versatile defenses, and his gameplans are opponent specific, so in theory, Metellus could be a starting slot cornerback in one week and a rotational linebacker in the next, in addition to his job as a backup safety.

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A reporter asked Metellus what he likes most about the new defensive scheme:

Just the versatility of it. We’re coming from all angles. There’s no ‘We line up like this, they gotta be doing this,’ we can come from anywhere. We got guys that can do a bunch of things. This year we’re more on the aggressive side. So to have the game planning for the offense, taking more time to figure out what we’re going to do, where we are going to attack from. I think that’s just going to play into a different culture than what he had last year.

I’m learning all these positions on defense for the team, not for me. It’s just I want to be out there, I want to help the team win. I want to be able to throw something at Kirk’s head where he’s like ‘What is number 44 doing? Is he at safety right now, is he at linebacker, is he at nickel?’ I want to be able to have the offense think about the defense.

Josh Metellus

Metellus also said that he loves to play on special teams and will continue to do so if the team wants him to. Of course, starters usually don’t play there, and he certainly eyes a spot in the starting unit. His play in the limited reps at safety last season should be enough to earn him a good look in training camp. Competition with Bynum is not out of the question. The general talk is if Bynum or Cine will start next to Smith, but Metellus shouldn’t be completely overlooked.

A versatile defender who loves football and studies hard to learn and understand the full defense is a dream for any coach. Flores will fall in love with him if it hasn’t happened already.

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