Vikings Unsung Hero Has Been Confirmed

Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

It’s a popular talking point in the offseason to project the unsung hero or the breakout player, and there are always multiple different answers. In the 2023 offseason, linebacker Brian Asamoah was a common name, just like running back Alexander Mattison or wideout J.J. Osborn. The departure of some veterans opened the door for all three of them. But it was a different player who shined.

Vikings Unsung Hero Has Been Confirmed

Vikings Unsung Hero Has Been Confirmed
Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports.

But the most common name, especially when training camp approached, was safety Josh Metellus, and even general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah chimed in and labeled Metellus as the team’s unsung hero.

Josh Metellus. He’s a safety, and he’ll play some more this year, so I think you’ll see the stuff that we’ve seen. He was a special teams stalwart last year, team-captain type. I was in the team meeting room later in the season after [Brian O’Neill] got hurt, [Metellus] was given team captain … You can feel when somebody’s teammates really love them, really appreciate them and really want to follow them into battle, and he’s one of those guys. He’s everything that the Minnesota Vikings are about, and I think people are really going to appreciate that more this season

Kwesi Adofo-Mensah

The general manager handed the previous special teams ace a new contract to keep him on the team for at least two more seasons. Before that deal kicked in, Metellus had to play one more season under his rookie contract, and he certainly showed why everyone was excited to keep him with the organization.

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Primarily a special teams ace, defensive coordinator Brian Flores changed Metellus’ role when he entered the building. The new DC likes to be versatile, and he likes to play with three safeties. Well, that third guy next to Harrison Smith and Camryn Bynum was Metellus.

It quickly became obvious that Metellus wasn’t just a safety but a Swiss Army knife lining up all over the defense.

NFL.com’s Adam Patra named one unsung hero for each NFC team, and Metellus earned his nod.

Credit defensive coordinator Brian Flores for unlocking Metellus’ havoc-creating ability. The former sixth-round pick out of Michigan played sparingly his first three seasons but became a versatile weapon under Flores. Metellus lined up all over the formation, from safety to outside linebacker, inside linebacker, slot corner, wide corner and defensive lineman.

Heck, PFF even charted Metellus as having one snap lined up as a defensive tackle. From those various locations, the 26-year-old stuffed the stat sheet, gobbling up 112 tackles, seven tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks, 10 QB hits, one interception, five passes defended, four forced fumbles and one fumble recovery. Metellus led all safeties with 30 QB pressures, per Next Gen Stats, on a whopping 116 pass rushes (26 more than any other safety in 2023).

Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

The defender is a Pro Bowl alternate, and just like Bynum, he received an All-Pro vote. Logging 1,065 snaps on defense, Metellus had a large role in the new defense and will continue to be in focus next season. He is one of the most versatile players in the league and can line up in all areas of the field with fantastic run defense, pass-rush ability, and coverage skills. There is no job he didn’t do in 2023.

If veteran star defender Smith decides to retire, he might be asked to play more as a traditional safety compared to his do-it-all role in 2023, but Smith doesn’t think that’s a problem.

Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

He said in July about his teammate: “You could see it when he first got here. He’s just a guy that no matter where you put him, he’s gonna do everything he can to be the best at that, whether it’s right guard on punt or safety or whatever. He’s a really smart guy, and he’s an explosive player that can do a lot of things athletically.”

The defender turned 26 a few days ago and is penciled in as a starter for another season.


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

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