These 4 Vikings Had Breakout Seasons

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After the conclusion of the 2023 season, the overall team results were disappointing, with a 7-10 record and the subsequent elimination from playoff contention in the last game of the season. The upcoming offseason will be crucial for the franchise as it is scheduled to make the critical QB decision and has a bunch of free agents.

These 4 Vikings Had Breakout Seasons

Despite the lack of team success and some disappointing performances, several individual players had fantastic seasons and were bright spots for the Minnesota Vikings.

1. Camryn Bynum

The 2021 fourth-rounder was permanently elevated into the starting lineup in 2022, playing every single snap in Ed Donatell’s defense. However, he didn’t particularly play well and was often out of position.

These 4 Vikings Had Breakout Seasons
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All of that disappeared in 2023 under the tutelage of Brian Flores. Playing once again next to Harrison Smith, Bynum emerged as one of the league’s better safeties, even earning a vote for the All-Pro teams. His grade from Pro Football Focus highlights his development, as he was ranked 68th of 88 eligible safeties in 2022 but was boosted to 21st of 96 safeties in 2023.

With Smith playing the role of the do-it-all defender, it was Bynum who was primarily lined up deep, but he still had a huge impact at defending the run, triggering quickly into the box to make tackles. He also was a frequent tackler in the passing game, logging a total of 137 tackles, the most on the team and the most of any defensive back in the league.

One year ago, it looked like the Vikings should try to find his replacement sooner rather than later; he has become a fixture of the defense and shouldn’t be in danger of losing his spot anytime soon.

2. Ty Chandler

Entering the year in a competition for the backup running back spot, he claimed that role by beating out injury-plagued kick returner Kene Nwangwu and rookie DeWayne McBride. His role diminished when the Vikings acquired Cam Akers via trade, but the door re-opened when Akers suffered a season-ending injury, elevating Chandler back to his backup duties.

Monitor Key Offensive
Minnesota Vikings running back Ty Chandler (32) dives for the end zone as Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Germaine Pratt (57) and Cincinnati Bengals safety Dax Hill (23) defend in the first quarter of a Week 15 NFL football game between the Minnesota Vikings and the Cincinnati Bengals, Saturday, Dec. 16, 2023, at Paycor Stadium in Cincinnati. © Kareem Elgazzar/The Enquirer / USA TODAY NETWORK.

Starting running back Alexander Mattison suffered a minor injury and missed the contest in Cincinnati, so Chandler was the team’s top back, and he delivered a breakout game, clinching the starting gig for the remainder of the season.

Not only that, he was also obviously the most dynamic runner on the team and has done enough to have a significant role next season, although probably not enough to be the unquestioned starter.

In 17 games, Chandler recorded 481 yards on 102 carries, leading to an average of 4.5 yards per carry and 3 touchdowns. He also turned 21 catches into 159 yards. Three hundred twenty-seven of his 620 scrimmage yards came in the season’s final four games.

3. Josh Metellus

Another safety, Josh Metellus, was mostly a special teams ace in his first three seasons, but that changed over the summer. Flores and his teammates praised him almost daily, and he was a popular breakout candidate.

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The problem was just that most defenses play with two safeties, and he was still the third option behind Smith and Bynum. However, Flores doesn’t run a scheme that most defenses run. He does things differently.

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

The defender is a Pro Bowl alternate, and just like Bynum, he received an All-Pro vote. Logging 1,065 snaps on defense, Metellus totaled 116 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 7 tackles for loss, 1 interception, and 4 forced fumbles. He will continue to play a large role on the defense, especially if Flores stays put, but even other coaches will realize how good of a football player he is, and there is always a spot in any defense for those.

4. Brandon Powell

When Brandon Powell was signed, it was viewed as competition for the punt return job. He won that job in training camp over former first-rounder Jalen Reagor.

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The Vikings needed someone to make plays during Justin Jefferson’s absence, a reliable weapon for Kirk Cousins, and the following wave of backups next to T.J. Hockenson and Jordan Addison. Powell emerged as a clutch target, coming down with the game-winning score versus Atlanta when Dobbs-mania took off.

The 28-year-old contributed 29 receptions for 324 yards and 1 touchdown. Combined with sure-handed punt returns, that has undoubtedly earned him another contract. It isn’t easy to find reliable depth receivers, and keeping Powell, who is unlikely to command a relevant salary, is a no-brainer.

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