One of the more obvious differences between the team last year, and the possibilities of this season is the Secondary. In 22′-23′ the Vikings struggled to find enough CB talent to put on the field, while this year they may find it difficult to get all their talented CB’s on the field. Thanks to the last two drafts, the Vikings have a plethora of options for starting defensive backs. Byron Murphy is definitely the #1 CB, but after that there are some questions, with a lot of potential answers. Perhaps the most significant question, and one not easily answered at this point, is who ends up playing the slot on defense? Minnesota hasn’t had a very good history with this position and most slot holders were just that, a temporary solution. But things look vastly different going into this season, and there are a lot of options for the coaches to consider.
Just dissecting from what I know about the secondary players, and what I’ve seen, I think Akayleb Evans is the presumptive starting CB opposite Byron Murphy. Which means the slot might be a perfect place to put Andrew Booth Jr. That scenario would keep the most value on the field, draft capital wise. Evans has the 6’2″ frame and acclimated into the defense smoothly when his opportunity came last year. Consecutive concussions took the former Missouri star out of his rookie season, but he flashed enough for the coaches to pencil him in as starter opposite Byron Murphy.
But there’s other scenarios for the slot defender. It may work keeping Andrew Bynum in the slot and allowing Cine to take over the other Safety spot, utilizing his speed in the back end. Bynum, a former college CB, has the 2nd most experience among the other possible slot options, and that may play a large role in this decision for the coaches. The most experience resides in Special Teams ace Josh Mettellus, who is pushing for playing time in any capacity. The coaches are probably trying to figure out ways to include hm in the scheme, so Mettellus could be another option if he has the change of direction agility needed for the position.
Vikings GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah might have been thinking about this slot defender question when he selected LSU’s Jay Ward in this years draft. Ward, a CB/S displayed his versatility while playing in Baton Rouge, and he might just put an end to the string of average slot players for the Vikings in recent memory. I personally see this as the presumptive answer here, but only time will tell. The remaining possible options include rookie Mekhi Blackmon, and probably not JoeJuan Williams, but it’s fun to think about that scenario with the 6’2″ guys out there. However the scenarios play out throughout camp, having those options is a significant improvement from all of last years CB woes. The young Vikings GM has put a couple quality drafts together, giving the coaches a full slate of DB options and it will be fun to watch it play out. The CB position went from an area of need, to one of the deepest position groups on the team in just 2 seasons. We will see how tonight’s game plays out, and hopefully we will get some insight into the coaches perspective on the slot subject.