Lewis Cine’s NFL Career Takes its Next Step

Lewis Cine’s NFL Career Takes its Next Step

Jun 8, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings safety Lewis Cine. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

Lewis Cine hasn’t had an easy start to his NFL career.

The broken leg in London — Week 4 of his rookie season in 2022 — stands out as perhaps the most difficult hurdle. At that time, Cine had just been involved in a couple defensive snaps before missing the full year due to his injury recovery.

But while the injury was difficult to overcome, the missed time can only explain so much.

Jul 27, 2022; Eagan, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings safety Lewis Cine (6) performs a drill at TCO Performance Center. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

Both Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and Kevin O’Connell have been upbeat and positive about Cine, but during the 2023 season the 1st-round selection was sitting at sixth in the safety hierarchy (last place).

While there’s some temptation to note that the abundant safety skill makes it tough to break through, it’s worth noting that Theo Jackson (a Tennessee 6th-round selection from the same draft as Cine) picked up 126 defensive snaps and 260 specials teams snaps. Meanwhile, 4th-round rookie Jay Ward had 35 defensive snaps and 302 special teams snaps.

Cine, in contrast, was on the field for just 8 defensive snaps alongside 84 special teams snaps. These defensive plays occurred at the end of Minnesota getting blown out by Green Bay in Week 17. There was opportunity for a fourth safety to join the fun — even if it was on a limited basis — and Brian Flores opted for other players. Cine was inactive for ten games.

Lewis Cine and The Path Forward

Mr. Cine should be an excellent option at safety.

He has great size at 6’2″, 199. Partner that with 4.37 speed and a background playing for a major college program and it’s easy to see the appeal. During his final season at Georgia, Cine picked up 73 tackles to stand alongside a single interception and 9 passes defended.

NFL: San Francisco 49ers at Minnesota Vikings
Aug 20, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings safety Lewis Cine (6) looks on prior to the game against the San Francisco 49ers at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

That kind of production — or opportunity — hasn’t been available in Minnesota.

The Vikings haven’t made any additions at safety during the offseason. All that’s happened has been retentions. Harrison Smith stands out since he’s a franchise legend who took a large pay cut to keep calling Minnesota home. The Hitman will be retaining his spot in the starting lineup. Camryn Bynum and Josh Metellus are both returning to re-equip Mr. Flores with the versatile, aggressive safety trio that did so many good things in 2023.

Stepping back a bit further, though, means seeing a more crowded defensive backfield.

NFL: Chicago Bears at Minnesota Vikings
Nov 27, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell greets safety Harrison Smith (22) before the game between the Minnesota Vikings and the Chicago Bears at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Tossing veteran Shaq Griffin into the fold means the corner competition is a bit more intense. Kevin O’Connell has even suggested there could be a touch more man coverage in Minnesota’s future as a result of the Griffin pickup.

During the draft, Adofo-Mensah snagged Khyree Jackson at No. 108. Take a look at what PurplePTSD‘s Josh Frey had to say about Mr. Jackson: “Jackson is a powerful presence on the boundary, thriving in man coverage. In man, he was targeted 18 times and allowed just eight receptions for 96 yards and zero touchdowns. He also snatched one of his interceptions in man.”

Upon first glance, the additions of Griffin and Jackson are bad news for Andrew Booth Jr. and Akayleb Evans, a pair of corners who have struggled at different points. Is there any chance that it’s actually bad news for Lewis Cine?

Jul 29, 2022; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings safety Lewis Cine. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

Minnesota kept an unusually high amount of safeties last year, a testament to Flores’ desire for versatile defenders. The top cluster of safeties were asked to move all over the field, picking up snaps in the deep area, in the box, as corners, and even along the defensive line a bit.

Can the Vikings get the same kind of versatility out of five safeties — Smith, Metellus, Bynum, Jackson, and Ward — while keeping one more corner?

If that’s the case, then Lewis Cine may be in a tough spot. No direct competition was added to his position but the ongoing presence of several great players at his spot in conjunction with the adds at corner make his roster spot a true mystery as of May 1.

Editor’s Note: Information from Pro Football Reference and Sports Reference CFB helped with this piece.

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K. Joudry is the Senior Editor for Vikings Territory and PurplePTSD. He has been covering the Vikings full time since the summer of 2021. He can be found on Twitter and as a co-host for Notes from the North, a humble Vikings podcast.

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