Vikings Own the Best Trio in NFL at One Position

Mettellus Has Saved
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The Minnesota Vikings own the best trio in the league at one position. That position is safety, where the trio of Harrison Smith, Camryn Bynum, and Josh Metellus are as good as it gets.

Over recent weeks, the Vikings defense has started to find its feet. The aggressive nature of Brian Flores’ defense was immediately a breath of fresh air, but there were still some struggles. The Vikings defense has impressed during the last three games, holding the opposition to just 17 points or fewer. A lot of what’s good about this Vikings defense starts with the three guys at safety.

Vikings Own the Best Trio in NFL at One Position

During last week’s game at Lambeau Field, former New Orleans Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma — a color analyst for the NFL on Fox — called Smith and Bynum the best safety duo in the league. The Vikings pair are certainly in the conversation for that accolade, along with Jevon Holland and DeShon Elliott (Miami Dolphins), Geno Stone and Kyle Hamilton (Baltimore Ravens), and Jordan Poyer and Micah Hyde. What those other three teams do not have is a third player playing as well as Metellus has been this season.

Vikings Own the Best Trio
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Flores likes many defensive backs on the field, and Smith and Bynum are almost always there. Metellus is there most of the time as the fifth DB, playing on 89% of defensive snaps this season. Sometimes, the Vikings will roll out with three or four cornerbacks as well. So far this season, Lewis Cine and Jay Ward haven’t had a look in, with neither playing a single defensive snap. If they are called upon at any point, they will have big shoes to fill.

Flores wants versatile defensive backs who can do everything, and the three starting Vikings safeties fit the bill. Minnesota’s defense is all about moving parts and confusing the opposition — particularly the quarterback. The trio of safeties have a big role in that and are so crucial to how the Flores defense works. Each player brings something different to the Vikings. 

Harrison Smith

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Smith is the veteran former first-round pick who should be headed to the Hall of Fame when his career is finally finished. Known for his hard-hitting, Smith also possesses incredible football intelligence that keeps his career going to a high standard at 34. He might be the ideal player for young safeties to learn from, but he’s still performing to a high standard. It was never more evidenced than his monster game against Carolina in Week 4.

In his twelfth season, the hitman has amassed 55 tackles, 3 sacks, 4 QB hits, 2 tackles for loss, 3 forced fumbles, and a pass deflection. His overall grade of 74.1 from Pro Football Focus is 16th among safeties in the league. The veteran has been proving he is still a force to be reckoned with. The question is, how long can the hitman keep this up?

Josh Metellus

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Metellus is a fourth-year pro who has worked his way from special teams ace to team captain and starter. A surprise contract extension prior to the season beginning was an indicator of the faith the Vikings had in their man. He has not disappointed. Under the guidance of Flores, Metellus is having a breakout season as the third safety. Often working as the slot corner but also finding himself in the box and on the defensive line, Flores uses Metellus’s versatility to great effect.

So far this season, Metellus has tallied 55 tackles, 1 sack, 5 QB hits, 3 tackles for loss, 1 forced fumble, 3 pass deflections, and 1 interception returned for 43 yards. PFF grades him at 73.9, which is 17th among all safeties. Versatility is a key attribute for Metellus, but he has proven often enough that he can play the more traditional free safety role more than adequately.

Camryn Bynum

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The star of this show is Camryn Bynum. The third-year man is having a great season in his second year as a starter. Bynum did good things last season, but I always felt he was a victim of Ed Donatell’s passive defense. No player on defense has had their potential unlocked by Flores more than Bynum, and the Vikings are now truly seeing what he is capable of.

He is the 6th best safety in the league according to PFF grading (83.1), and his coverage grade of 82.0 is 4th best among safeties. Like his teammates, Bynum has the versatility to play all over the defense but is the one who plays free safety the most. Halfway through the season, Bynum has racked up 76 tackles, 0.5 sacks, 1 QB hit, 2 tackles for loss, 1 forced fumble, 6 pass deflections, and 2 interceptions. Bynum will be putting his name in the conversation for best safeties in the league if he keeps this standard of play up.