The Underdog Is Still Running with the 1st-Team

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The Minnesota Vikings managed to win 13 games in the 2022 season, but the postseason game showed the obvious weakness — the pass defense.

The Underdog Is Still Running with the 1st-Team

Daniel Jones received his significant contract extension partly because of the game against the Vikings in January. Mac Jones and Mike White are two other QBs who thrived against the Vikings and their horrendous defense. General manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah had to change things, and he did.

The Underdog Is Still Running With the 1st-Team
Minnesota Vikings CB Joejuan Williams addressed the media from the TCO Performance Center on Thursday, July 27, 2023. Williams joined the Vikings via free agency in April 2023 and was a 2nd-Round draft pick by Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots four years ago.

Those changes include the firing of Ed Donatell after only one season as defensive coordinator and the subsequent hire of Brian Flores, the former head coach of the Miami Dolphins, a highly regarded defensive mind and leader in the NFL.

But the Vikings didn’t stop there. They also made big changes to their player personnel. Za’Darius Smith, Eric Kendricks, and Dalvin Tomlinson departed from the front seven, while cornerbacks Patrick Peterson, Chandon Sullivan, Duke Shelley, and Cam Dantzler left either in free agency or were released.

The departed cornerbacks left a void at the position. Adofo-Mensah spent in free agency and signed Byron Murphy from the Arizona Cardinals to take over one of the spots. He has the versatility to play in the slot and outside, making life easier for Flores to find the other two CBs.

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Akayleb Evans and Andrew Booth return after missing most of their debut season with injuries. However, they are talented players and are supposed to compete for the starting roles with rookie Mekhi Blackmon. Three days of training camp practices and the top three cornerbacks of the Vikings are as expected Murphy, Evans, and a true underdog – Joejuan Williams. Not many expected the free agent signing to compete for the starting job. He was viewed as a player on the roster bubble. The Vikings didn’t sign him during the first wave of free agency but shortly before the draft.

Standing 6’3″, Williams is a rare tall cornerback. He and Evans handle the outside duties in nickel packages with Murphy sliding inside. Williams was a 2019 second-round pick of the New England Patriots, but he started only one game in his four-year tenure with the Patriots. The cornerback appeared in 36 games in Bill Belichick’s operation and was on the field for 505 snaps on defense and 337 with the special teams. A shoulder injury suffered in August forced him to miss the 2022 season, his fourth, on injured reserve.

Dark Horse Defender Could Win Vikings CB Job
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It is noteworthy that defensive coordinator Brian Flores coached for about a decade in New England and left right before the arrival of Williams. However, he has experience in a scheme similar to Flores’, so he may have an advantage over the young guys who are all learning a new defense.

A fascinating storyline is if Williams can indeed continue to hold on to the spot and finally live up to his second-round draft pedigree or if he is just a placeholder until the young guys are ready to replace him after getting comfortable in the scheme. Three days in, Williams actually has a shot at earning meaningful reps on the 2023 Vikings.

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