Reliable Defenders Proved Key to Vikings Win

Aug 5, 2023; Eagan, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings safety Josh Metellus (44) takes the field during training camp at Twin Cities Orthopedic Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports.

It was a rough watch, but the Minnesota Vikings came out of Soldier Field with their second win of the season. There was much to be concerned about from Sunday’s game, but reliable defenders proved key to Vikings win. Amidst disappointment, there have been good performers and performances this season. On defense, that comes from a group of players that give cause for optimism on that side of the ball.

Reliable Defenders Proved Key to Vikings Win

The group in question comprises Jordan Hicks, Danielle Hunter, Josh Metellus, Akayleb Evans, and Camryn Bynum. Hicks and Hunter are veteran players who hit free agency after this season. Both have been the subject of trade speculation in recent weeks, which begs the question, are they here for the long term?

Hunter has a league-high eight sacks this season after adding two more to his resume against the Bears. D.J. Wonnum had a good day in Chicago, with a sack, tackle for loss, and pass deflection. However, with Marcus Davenport continuously dealing with injuries, the Vikings rely heavily on Hunter’s pass rush from the edge.

Reliable Defenders
Oct 15, 2023; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Minnesota Vikings linebacker D.J. Wonnum (98) sacks Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields (1) during the first half at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Mike Dinovo-USA TODAY Sports.

The only edge rushers the Vikings have contracted for next season are Patrick Jones and Andre Carter. It’s an area of the team that needs significant improvement. Trading Hunter away at this point would be a huge decision and one I don’t think happens after the win in Chicago. Internally, the Vikings will see themselves as competitive at 2-4, and if any trades are to be made, I don’t see it being Hunter. Should the Vikings seek a long-term contract at the end of the season? That decision is a long way off.

I do think Hicks is playing his way to a new contract. Even if the Vikings are rebuilding, you need a veteran presence to help bring the young players through. Signing Hicks won’t break the bank, like signing Hunter might, and Hicks has been superb this season. His ultimately game-winning scoop and score, after Metellus had made the strip sack on Tyson Bagent, was a fair reward for a man playing consistently good football. A continuation of Hicks being the veteran to guide Ivan Pace and Brian Asamoah looks like a winning combination.

Rising Stars

With Harrison Smith’s career coming toward its conclusion, the rise of Metellus and Bynum as big players on this defense has been a welcome element of this season. Metellus has made the third safety spot, mostly operating in the slot, his own. One of the team captains, he emphasizes the reward for hard work, progressing from special teams ace to defensive starter. His strip sack was game-defining in a game that saw only one offensive touchdown for each team. After failing to gather in the fumble, his game awareness and unselfishness to realize Hicks was in a better position to recover the fumble and score was as good as the sack.

Feb 28, 2020; Indianapolis, Indiana, USA; Michigan defensive back Josh Metellus (DB53) speaks to the media during the 2020 NFL Combine in the Indianapolis Convention Center. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports.

Bynum is a tackling machine coming downhill from the secondary and has led the team in tackles for the last three weeks. His 60 tackles for the season are tied for the seventh most in the league. After a disappointing first season as a starter in 2022, Bynum continues to impress week after week. Another player impressing in his first season as a starter is CB Akayleb Evans, who is proving to be solid on the perimeter for the Vikings, with good acumen to come downhill and make tackles. Evidence of this came in the second quarter on Sunday when a strong tackle in run defense dislodged the ball out of the hands of Darrynton Evans for a fumble.

Sep 14, 2023; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Minnesota Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell in the tunnel against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports.

The Vikings are not perfect on defense but have some pieces to build around. On Sunday, they provided the spark to grab a much-needed win as the offense stuttered for most of the game