3 Vikings Defenders Deserve Their Flowers

Jan 8, 2023; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Minnesota Vikings safety Camryn Bynum (24) reacts during the second half against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports.

Coming off a 13-4 season and an NFC North championship clinched with three games left on the schedule, expectations for the Minnesota Vikings slowly increased in the second year of the new regime. However, six games into the 2023 season, the Vikings are 2-4 and a longshot to reach the postseason.

3 Vikings Defenders Deserve Their Flowers

Despite the disappointing season start, some guys have been balling out under new defensive coordinator Brian Flores and still fly under the radar in the Vikings universe.

Camryn Bynum

Eyebrows were raised when the Vikings selected a cornerback and moved him to safety in the 2021 draft. In his rookie campaign, Bynum was inserted into the starting unit twice, with veteran Harrison Smith missing a couple of contests, and the Cal product played surprisingly well.

3 Vikings Defenders Deserve Their Flowers
Dec 4, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings safety Camryn Bynum (24) reacts after the game against the New York Jets as center Garrett Bradbury (56) looks on at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Many expected him to become a full-time starter with Xavier Woods leaving in free agency, but that changed when the new general manager spent a first-round draft choice on Lewis Cine. But Bynum didn‘t give up, entered the camp competition, and kept the starting gig next to Smith. The results of the new defense led by Ed Donatell were underwhelming.

Enter Flores and his defensive scheme, which is closer to Mike Zimmer‘s, and the converted cornerback is playing at an extremely high level in his second season as a full-time starter. Through six games, Bynum has logged 60 tackles and forced a fumble. He is amongst the league leaders in tackles and continues to shine in Flores‘ aggressive defense, cleaning up runs and passes in the middle of the field.

Jordan Hicks

His scoop-and-score allowed the Vikings to come away with a win in Soldier Field. Hicks joined the Vikings in the 2022 free agency to play next to Eric Kendricks, and similar to Bynum, the scheme didn‘t fit his skills as well as Flores‘.

ESPN Claims Bills
Jan 8, 2023; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Chicago Bears running back David Montgomery (32) runs the ball and is tackled by Minnesota Vikings inside linebacker Jordan Hicks (58) during the second quarter at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Bartel-USA TODAY Sports.

Cutting a bunch of aging veterans, Hicks was also at risk to get axed. A salary cut made it possible to keep him, and he has been a staple of the new defense, providing excellent run defense while his subpar coverage skills aren‘t as exposed as in the previous campaign.

Fifty-three tackles, a forced fumble, and a couple of fumble recoveries, including the touchdown in Week 6, are a big reason why the defense has been improved in most categories. In addition to his on-field contributions, head coach Kevin O‘Connell has praised the 32-year-old ad nauseam for his leadership skills. His transformation from a liability to a difference-maker has been remarkable, especially considering the late stage of his career.

Josh Metellus

The safety was a key special teams player in the first three seasons of his career and added value as a backup. But his role on defense was barely existent, only playing on 328 defensive snaps in those three seasons combined. Over a third came in a couple of starts when starter Smith had to sit out two games in 2022.

kevin o'connell hints more
Dec 11, 2022; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Detroit Lions wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown (14) is tackled by Minnesota Vikings safety Josh Metellus (44) during the second half at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: David Reginek-USA TODAY Sports

The script completely flipped, once again, with the arrival of Flores. With the absence of a true nickel cornerback and Metellus‘ versatility, the safety was a perfect candidate to play in that role as a linebacker/cornerback hybrid. That led to Metellus logging 87% of the defensive snaps, with 359 more than he had in the previous three seasons combined.

He is thriving as a Swiss army knife on defense, providing versatility as a pass-rusher, coverage player, and against the run. Many were confused when the Vikings extended the contract of a supposed backup player, but his contributions to the new defense have been tremendous.

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