Minnesota Vikings safety Lewis Cine has made tremendous strides just four months after suffering a gruesome lower leg fracture at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London.
Cine underwent multiple surgeries in London following the Vikings’ Week 3 walk-off victory over the New Orleans Saints. Immediately after the game, head coach Kevin O’Connell said he hopes Cine could play football again. The fact O’Connell even proposed Cine’s career was at stake was alarming.
However, the 23-year-old has since made a miraculous recovery.
He posted a video of him exercising at the Vikings training facility on February 3. His left leg, the one that was fractured in October, looked just as explosive as his right, sending Twitter in fanfare over the Georgia product’s recovery.
The video is another significant step in Cine’s recovery after he was seen walking without a cast or boot just a month after his injury.
Vikings Need Lewis Cine to Step Up in 2023
After essentially a redshirt rookie year, Cine will have steep expectations in his second season.
The Vikings defense could lose anywhere from five to nine starters, including Harrison Smith, who is considered a potential veteran cap casualty this offseason.
Smith at safety appears to have more longevity at his position compared to other veterans who are questionable to return. Minnesota would greatly benefit by giving Cine a year to work alongside side Smith as well.
However, that’s no guarantee after 2021 fourth-round pick Cam Bynum, a converted college cornerback out of Cal, won the starting job alongside Smith last season.
While Bynum is a quality player, Cine not seizing a starting spot next season would be considered a major failure by the new regime that made him their first pick last April.
Vikings’ Only Option is to Work Wonders With Younger Talent
Whether the Vikings’ defensive failures last season were a product of scheme, personnel or execution is an endless debate.
However, injecting more speed and youth could be the solution next season — and frankly the only option at several spots with the Vikings in a financial bind. However, the Vikings have their work cut out for them after an abysmal track record of drafting defensive talent.
Of 56 draft picks since 2018, only four players have become high-impact contributors — all on offense (Brian O’Neill, Christian Darrisaw, K.J. Osborn and Justin Jefferson). Seven players in that span are currently starters, the only defensive starter being Bynum.
There is some room for optimism.
Third-round linebacker Brian Asamoah was a breath of fresh air when filling in for veterans Eric Kendricks and Jordan Hicks.
The Vikings also have cornerbacks Andrew Booth Jr. and Akayleb Evans who could become consistent contributors next season along with Cameron Dantzler, who has flashed as a potential No. 1 cornerback but lost his starting role to veteran Duke Shelley amid the scheme change this past season.
Minnesota, which appears to be sticking with its 3-4 base scheme, needs more explosive players to close in and disrupt the passing game. The new regime has drafted players with elite 10-yard splits in the 40-yard dash for a reason.
However, getting them to execute the scheme to a competent level will be the challenge for the new defensive coordinator, whoever that may be.