Vikings to Take It Easy with Men Named Harrison

Vikings CB Problem Intensifies
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If the man’s first name was Harrison in 2023, he played too many snaps.

Vikings to Take It Easy with Men Named Harrison

That’s the word from Vikings leadership this week regarding 2023 playing time for Harrison Smith and Harrison Phillips.

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Smith, a safety, re-upped with the Vikings for 2024, accepting a contractual restructure, while Phillips, a defensive tackle, enters the final year of his deal in purple. According to head coach Kevin O’Connell, neither man will play as much in 2024 as he did in 2023.

ESPN Kevin Seifert set the table Tuesday via tweet: “Vikings were thrilled to get S Harrison Smith back for another season. But they are realistic about what they can put his 35-year-old body through … Smith played a career-high 1,113 snaps in 2023.

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O’Connell said about Smith, “We are not going to be able to play him as much as we did.”

And on Phillips — the other Harrison — Seifert added, “Vikings also hope that added depth will help them manage DT Harrison Phillips’ playing time as well, per Kevin O’Connell. Phillips played a career-high 839 snaps last season.”

Many wondered for the last two months if Smith would retire, join another team, or accept a paycut. In the end, he chose the latter, agreeing to a restructured contract that will pay him $9 million next season. Smith will resume starter’s duties in 2024 — barring something weird — in a safety room consisting of Josh Metellus, Camryn Bynum, Lewis Cine, Jay Ward, and Theo Jackson. It’s a full house at safety for the Vikings.

harrison smith
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Phillips, meanwhile, is seven years younger than Smith at age 28. His snap count may not drop off as much as Smith’s, but O’Connell, along with defensive coordinator Brian Flores, might look to rein in his 839 defensive plays from last year. The 839 snaps in 2023 were a climb from 694 in 2022.

Of course, the Vikings will need a large defensive tackle — so, a backup nose tackle — for O’Connell’s dream to come true. As of March 26th, Minnesota doesn’t really have that on the depth chart unless it re-signs Sheldon Day sometime this spring or summer. A free agent like Teair Tart or former Viking Linval Joseph might also do the trick.

Harrison Phillips Had
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Minnesota’s defense ranked 24th per DVOA in 2022 under Ed Donatell and improved mightily in 2023 under Brian Flores — to the tune of 11th-best in the NFL. With new free-agent defenders Jonathan Greenard, Andrew Van Ginkel, and Blake Cashman, along with Phillips’ and Smith’s return to the depth chart and more help on the way, Flores could nudge the Vikings’ defense into the Top 10.

Regarding Smith’s possibly reduced workload, a lane could be paved for Lewis Cine’s playing time, a 1st-Rounder from the 2022 NFL Draft. Stay tuned.

If general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah wants to enhance depth at safety or defensive tackle to fully effectuate the Harrisons Plan, the draft is less than 30 days away.

Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sal Spice. His Vikings obsession dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ Basset Hounds, and The Doors (the band).

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