Injured Vikings Rookie Cine Looks Great

Lewis Cine Pitched a Shutout vs. Lions. And Not in a Good Way.
Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

It was a surprise when the Vikings traded back all the way to the 32nd overall pick in the 2022 draft in a controversial in-division transaction. The draft selection was just as big of a jaw-dropper.

Kwesi Adofo-Mensah was in charge of his first draft end ended up choosing Lewis Cine, a safety from Georgia. Unfortunately, Cine’s rookie campaign was cut short because of a gruesome injury. Roughly four months later, Cine seems to be on track to be back when the next season kicks off.

Injured Vikings Rookie Cine Looks Great

Injured Vikings Rookie Cine Looks Great
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Cine’s selection was a surprise because the team had some needs, but safety didn’t look like one of them. Camryn Bynum, a 2021 rookie, was primed to be the starter next to potential Hall of Famer Harrison Smith after having two great games in his rookie season.

The choice was a move made for the future, as Smith is 34 years old and won’t keep playing much longer. Having his replacement in the building was strategically a great move. However, Cine was a first-rounder, so folks rightfully expected him to make an impact early in his career.

He came from national champion Georgia, a team loaded with NFL talent, and was a top contributor on the road to the title. His pro-readiness was never in doubt. But in training camp a couple of months before the season started, the Vikings saw second-year player Bynum run away with the starting job. Cine was limited to special teams work when the season began.

Harrison Smith missed a game in Week 3 against the Lions, and Cine was expected to start, but Josh Metellus, a special team ace, started in Smith’s place. It turned out it had nothing to do with Cine, as Metellus was simply really good.

kevin o'connell hints more
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In Week 4, a game against the Saints in London, Cine went to the ground during a special team play. The rookie suffered a compound leg fracture, a devastating injury.

While the team left, Cine had to stay in London after immediately undergoing surgery. His season was over before it really began. He played two snaps on defense and 34 on special teams.

Exactly 127 days later, Cine posted the following video:

The safety can be seen running full speed, including runs with a resistance band. He is not changing direction, which can mean two things. It’s either the next step in his rehab, or he just didn’t post it.

The Vikings Have Oodles of Needs in Next Year's Draft
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Either way, the video is a great sign, and Cine seems to be on track to be back on the field soon. The 2022 rookie could have a big role in 2023. Brian Flores, the new defensive coordinator, often plays with many defensive backs on the field, and athletic freaks like Cine can play major roles in his scheme. His speed is a one-of-a-kind trait for safeties, and Flores is the kind of defensive mind that can fully utilize it. The scheme deploys heavy blitzing and much Cover 1 defense. Both characteristics should be great fits for Cine.

His playing style is exactly what the 2022 Vikings defense lacked. Cine’s incredible athleticism and aggressive playing style jumped off the screen when watching his college tape. He now needs to learn how to read plays quicker, so he can use his speed to get to the ball carrier. Because he didn’t play a lot during his rookie year, the classic “rookie struggles” can be expected in his second season, but at some point, the Vikings have to play Cine to get him ready.

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