Vikings Recent 1st-Round Pick Named Top NFL Breakout Candidate

Lewis Cine, Vikings

Getty Safety Lewis Cine of the Minnesota Vikings runs on the field during an NFL preseason game against the San Francisco 49ers in August 2022.

The Minnesota Vikings have amassed a stable of young talent over the past two years, though several of those players have barely had a chance to showcase their skills.

Safety Lewis Cine is at the top of that list after suffering a compound fracture to his leg in Week 4 of last season against the New Orleans Saints. The injury cost him the remainder his rookie campaign and required two surgeries to fully repair.

Minnesota selected Cine with the No. 32 overall pick in the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft, but he appeared in just three games and played only two snaps on defense during those contests, per Pro Football Reference. Cine saw the field for a total of 34 special teams snaps before breaking his leg.

Cine’s rehabilitation appears to be coming along swimmingly based on training videos the safety posted to social media in February, which can be viewed on YouTube courtesy of the Purple FTW! Podcast.

Lewis Cine Primed for Larger Role With Vikings Secondary Under New Defensive Coordinator Brian Flores

Lewis Cine

GettySafety Lewis Cine of the Minnesota Vikings warms up before an NFL game against the Detroit Lions in September 2022.

That Cine wasn’t ready to jump into a starting role as a rookie, even before he was injured, is mildly concerning. However, NFL defenses are complicated, and players learn in different ways and at different speeds.

Cine has had the entire offseason to study the game in general, as well as to watch tape of opponents and work with head coach Kevin O’Connell’s defensive staff during practice and meeting sessions. The learning curve might reset to a degree with the arrival of Brian Flores as the Vikings’ new defensive coordinator, but that alone doesn’t mean Cine can’t explode onto the scene in a real way during his sophomore season.

Kristopher Knox of Bleacher Report on Sunday, June 25, named Cine a top-eight breakout candidate among second-year players who have been “forgotten” for one reason or another, to one degree or another, after unimpressive rookie campaigns.

“While the second-year man may still be stuck behind Harrison Smith and Camryn Bynum at safety, he should see the field more as a sophomore,” Knox wrote. “He could also have a real opportunity to shine as a rotational player under new defensive coordinator Brian Flores. If Flores is going to use a more aggressive and diversified scheme than predecessor Ed Donatell, Cine could be a huge part of it.”

Lewis Cine Offers Optimistic Outlook Heading into Second NFL Season With Vikings

Lewis Cine

GettySafety Lewis Cine of the Minnesota Vikings participates in training camp drills in August 2022.

Cine spoke to Minnesota’s in-house media team in April to discuss his rehab, during which the 23-year-old expressed optimism about his progress and gratefulness for the staff around him.

“I’m doing great. I’m progressing along. I’ve worked my tail off the whole offseason,” Cine told Lindsey Young of “I really appreciate the training staff, the dietician, the strength coaches — everyone in the facility — for helping me get back together to where I am now.”

He added that staying grounded and patient have been important parts of his ability to endure the long and arduous journey back to health.

“It’s a progression. I’m taking it a day at a time,” Cine continued. “Getting better a day at a time, stronger a day at a time. I’m not trying to look too far ahead.”

O’Connell also spoke to Young in April about Cine’s progression.

He is here every day working. You can just feel he is hungry. He feels like he’s earned the right through all the work he’s put in. I think he’s feeling pretty strong and feeling like he’s getting back to where he wants to be.

Knowing mentally he never took a day off, we asked him the question, “Hey, when you’re ready, we want you all in from a meetings standpoint — growing your understanding of not only scheme, but studying offenses and how people run routes and how people try to attack defenses.” He jumped all-in on that.

Cine is entering the second season of his four-year, $11.5 million rookie contract. He is currently listed as the Vikings’ second-string free safety behind Bynum, per ESPN.

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