The Minnesota Vikings have a good problem at safety for 2022.
Ed Donatell’s new 3-4 defense boasts three safeties who could reasonably start with only two starting jobs available — free safety and strong safety. Harrison Smith is paid handsomely to perform SS duties, so his starting prognosis is not jeopardized.
But suspense heightens when determining the identity for starting fee safety for Week 1. There is little doubt that Lewis Cine, who the Vikings selected in Round 1 of April’s draft, will eventually become the starter. If he does not, that will indicate long-term problems for the new front office’s decision-making and scouting.
Is Cine ready out of the gate, though? That is the question for Vikings fans to ponder with training camp one month away.
According to draft stock, he should start against the Green Bay Packers on September 11th. But Minnesota also has Camryn Bynum on the roster, who many felt before Cine’s arrival would indeed start alongside Harrison Smith. The Vikings made no free-agent transactions at safety, and by default, Bynum was forecasted as “the guy.”
Well, Bynum was magnificent when afforded playing time in 2021 as a rookie. Smith missed two games, and Bynum seized the moment — the dream for every rookie, especially one discovered in Round 4. All told, Bynum played about one-fifth of all Vikings defensive snaps last year, grading an impressive 78.3 from Pro Football Focus.
Ask yourself this — why would a rookie with a 78.3 PFF grade get benched the following year? Would the coaching staff merely assume his success was fool’s gold? Hopefully not.
Bynum could very easily begin 2022 on the bench, though. Cine and his 1st-Rounder status should wiggle into the starting lineup, leaving situational snaps for Bynum. This will be determined in July and August when Donatell decides who’s the better fit in his defense.
Again, the dilemma is advantageous because Bynum can fill in for Cine — or vice versa — when injuries hit. Before Cine came aboard, the Vikings employed Smith, Bynum, and a couple of reservists players in Myles Dorn and Josh Metellus.
Thanks to some astute drafting, Minnesota now has too much of a good thing — starting safeties in a 3-4 defense. And that’s why Cine v. Bynum is coming to TCO Performance Center in about 4.5 weeks.
As a consolation prize for the “loser” of the battle, Cine and Bynum are likely the two men to start at safety when Smith eventually retires or moves on. Smith is 33 years old, and his age is the reason Cine was drafted with the 32nd overall pick — life after Hitman.