The preseason is a time for individual player evaluations. The players most of us are most curious about every year are the rookies. More specifically, for 2022, we want to know how Lewis Cine and Andrew Booth Jr. are performing. Are the Vikings’ top draft picks ready to start?
When evaluating rookies, you first need to recognize that these are human beings. All humans develop at different rates. Then there is an additional aspect of the difficulty of the position.
With these variables in place, we can look at how both of these players did in the first preseason game. More importantly, now that we have seen some live action, we can better predict where they stand in the depth chart.
Vikings’ Defensive Backs Have to Continue to Improve
First, we will start with the play of Lewis Cine and Andrew Booth Jr. These guys were drafted to shore up a defensive back group in dire need of help. After the game against the Raiders, one thing is clear.
Neither of them is ready to be the starter at this moment. I say at this moment deliberately. Both of them have an excellent chance to win a starting job this season, and I believe they will. However, at this time, they are just not quite ready.
According to PFF, Lewis Cine was targeted twice and allowed one catch. He was also credited with one solo tackle. This led to an overall grade of 67.3. However, one significant factor is keeping him from taking the starting job from Cam Bynum, who posted a PFF grade of 55.1.
That reason? He is a little slow to react to the play on the field. He has enough burst to make up for this fraction of a second delay in responding to plays. However, as he continues to play and his reaction time improves, he will blow past Bynum on the depth chart.
Andrew Booth Jr. is Overly Aggressive
Andrew Booth Jr. has a different problem. He is overly aggressive. His aggressiveness is the best and worst thing about him. You want him to be aggressive, but he needs to learn to channel this and fix his timing a little bit.
Booth’s aggressiveness was most notable when he, albeit impressively, got called for two penalties on a single play. The penalties, a facemask and then a pass interference, inevitably led to 37 yards of penalties and a Raiders touchdown later in the drive.
The coaching point with Booth is going to need to be subtle. You absolutely do not want to coach aggressiveness out of players unless it is them fighting opponents. This is especially true for the cornerback position that thrives on self-confidence, which Booth has in droves.
What do you do? First things first, you have to eliminate the grabs. Perhaps this is a good time to bring back the boxing gloves that helped Rhodes lose the grabbiness and become an all-pro.
After that, you work on his timing to break up a pass play. Honestly, this one is difficult to coach and will need to come through repetitions. Booth Jr. is a smart and good enough player to improve on this aspect over time.
If Booth can improve on these two things, he will become a starter in no time. Andrew Booth Jr. usurping Dantzler at some point this season feels inevitable.
Mitch Massman is a life-long Vikings fan. His first heartbreak was the 1998 NFC championship game. His full-time job is as an economic development professional in rural Minnesota. He fantasizes about the Vikings winning a Super Bowl one day, but until then he will write about the Vikings. Follow him on Twitter @skol_vikings3