Harrison Smith Excited about Teammates’ Growth

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The Minnesota Vikings have revamped their defense in the 2024 offseason. Four-time Pro Bowler Danielle Hunter and top linebacker Jordan Hicks left, just like pass-rushers Marcus Davenport and D.J. Wonnum. General manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah replaced them by signing Jonathan Greenard, Andrew Van Ginkel, and Blake Cashman before drafting Dallas Turner.

Harrison Smith Excited about Teammates’ Growth

The secondary has remained the same. Other than the released cornerback Joejuan Williams, every other contributor returned for another campaign. The Vikings added veteran Shaquill Griffin and fourth-rounder Khyree Jackson to the cornerback room.

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The safety crew, meanwhile, has not changed. Six-time Pro Bowler Harrison Smith contemplated retirement in the offseason but decided to give it another shot, claiming he would play as long as he’s still good. With him, 2023 breakout players Camryn Bynum and Josh Metellus are still part of Skol Nation. The duo’s growth has been fun to oversee for the 12-year veteran.

Asked about their development from draft picks to prominent defenders, he said while talking to reporters during the OTAs:

It’s been awesome. When you have guys, especially at similar positions, that share the same idea of the game and desire to make plays, and I’ve always said you got to be a little selfish in a good way. Just kind of having those things and watching them grow together, individually, is pretty awesome to be around and it keeps me trying to compete with them as well. So it’s a nice dynamic that we got.

Harrison Smith

Smith has been playing next to Bynum in each of the last two seasons. He was a fourth-round selection in 2021 as a converted cornerback from the University of California. In his debut season, Bynum started in a couple of games when Smith was forced to miss time with a COVID-19 infection, and he played remarkably well.

Vikings Safety Jokes
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Entering 2022, he claimed a starting spot, but the investment of a first-rounder for Lewis Cine had everyone expecting him to lose his job sooner rather than later, but it still hasn’t happened. An up-and-down season under defensive coordinator Ed Donatell was followed by a remarkable campaign in Brian Flores’ unit. Cine is now an afterthought as Bynum solidified his spot in the starting lineup. He led all defensive backs with 137 tackles and logged two interceptions primarily as a deep safety, but he showed versatility as a run defender.

Just as remarkable is the emergence of fellow safety Metellus. He was selected in 2020 as a sixth-rounder. Strong performances on special teams earned him a roster spot. Like Bynum a year earlier, Metellus excelled when he started a couple of games in 2022 in place of Smith, showing some promise on defense in addition to his special teams excellence.

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His breakthrough came in 2023 when Flores constructed his new defense. He realized that Metellus was more than just a backup safety; he created a role for the fourth-year player, lining him up all over the field. The formations changed from play to play, but one thing was constant: Metellus was one of the 11 defenders on any given play. He logged 1,065 snaps on defense, 94% of the plays.

Those snaps came as a safety, slot cornerback, linebacker, and sometimes even on the defensive line. After leading all safeties in the league in fan votes, he ultimately was snubbed from the Pro Bowl. Perhaps the coaches did not appreciate his versatility as much. Metellus registered 116 tackles, one interception, forced four fumbles, and had 2.5 sacks.

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In 2024, both Bynum and Metellus will play most, if not all, snaps. Smith’s workload could dip in the upcoming season because he is 35 years old, and getting an occasional rest period could ensure his efficiency in (potentially) his final season in the NFL. The future Ring of Honor inductee has lost a step, but his football IQ helps him play at the highest level.

Regardless of the roles, the trio is one of Minnesota’s strengths, and coordinator Flores will have some fun scheming the defense around them.

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