Skip to main content

News | Minnesota Vikings –

2023 Vikings Position Recap: Cornerbacks

EAGAN, Minn. — Minnesota's cornerbacks navigated various highs and lows in 2023 as a relatively young position group learned a new scheme under Defensive Coordinator Brian Flores.

Newcomer Byron Murphy, Jr., led the Vikings in interceptions this season. His three picks were one short of his 2021 career high of four. In his first year in Minnesota, Murphy topped Vikings cornerbacks in defensive snaps, tackles for loss and passes defended, despite missing the final three games of the season due to a knee injury.

View the best photos of Vikings cornerbacks Byron Murphy Jr., Akayleb Evans., Mekhi Blackmon, Andrew Booth Jr., Joejuan Williams, Jaylin Williams, and Najee Thompson during the 2023 season.

Second-year pro Akayleb Evans started a team-high 15 games at cornerback. The 2022 fourth-round pick also set several career highs in his first year as a starter.

Rookie Mekhi Blackmon earned increased playing time as the season unfolded. He played a season-high 65 snaps in Week 12 against Chicago during his first career start. He nabbed his first NFL interception in Week 10 against the Saints, helping Minnesota secure its fifth consecutive victory.

Backups Andrew Booth, Jr., Joejuan Williams and Jaylin Williams combined for 223 defensive snaps, 10 tackles and three passes defended. NaJee Thompson played one defensive snap in addition to a heavier workload on special teams.

Notable Numbers

3:05 – amount of time lapsed between Murphy and Blackmon's back-to-back fourth-quarter interceptions versus the Saints

Murphy and Blackmon intercepted Saints quarterback Jameis Winston on consecutive possessions to help Minnesota hold on to an eight-point win in Week 10.

3 – number of Murphy's team-high interceptions

Murphy intercepted Bears quarterback Tyson Bagent (Week 6), Falcons quarterback Taylor Heinicke (Week 9) and Winston this season.

2 – number of consecutive games Vikings cornerbacks contributed to a takeaway

In addition to Murphy's interceptions in consecutive weeks to start November, Evans also forced a game-changing fumble against the Falcons that safety Josh Metellus recovered.

Regular-Season Statistics


The Highest High

The Vikings cornerbacks played a pivotal role in the team's five-game win streak from Weeks 6 through 10. Against the Saints, Minnesota forced interceptions on two of New Orleans' final three drives to protect an eight-point lead.

Saints starting quarterback Derek Carr exited the game late in the third quarter following a clean high-low hit from Vikings defensive lineman Jaquelin Roy and outside linebacker Danielle Hunter. Winston entered and sparked a brief rally.

Three plays later, he connected with receiver Chris Olave for a 14-yard score. New Orleans scored 16 unanswered points (including consecutive successful 2-point conversions) with Winston.

But then the Vikings secondary swung the game. The Saints went three-and-out on their next possession, followed by interceptions from Murphy and Blackmon on consecutive drives during the final three-plus minutes.

Blackmon earned a game ball for his first NFL interception. He earned an expanded role after Evans left the game with a calf injury.

"When Jameis [Winston] came in, we were all talking about how he is going to give us a shot," Blackmon said. "So just stay on top. When the ball comes, make sure you catch it."

The Lowest Low

Four of the Vikings first five games came against accomplished NFL quarterbacks. Baker Mayfield (Week 1), Jalen Hurts (Week 2), Justin Herbert (Week 3) and Patrick Mahomes (Week 5) all challenged a young and developing cornerbacks room to grow into Flores' new scheme quickly.

Against the Vikings, Herbert and receiver Keenan Allen linked for a franchise-record 18 receptions and 215 yards. Allen's performance set a new career-high for the 11-year veteran and was the fourth-highest total in Chargers history. His receiving total tied for fourth highest in the NFL this season, along with Tyreek Hill's Week 1 performance for Miami. Only Amari Cooper (265), DJ Moore (230) and CeeDee Lamb (227) gained more yards in a single game than Allen this season.

2 Pressing Questions for 2024

  1. Developing young talent behind Murphy

Murphy is under contract through 2024 and sounded optimistic for a speedy recovery for the knee injury he suffered and played through at Cincinnati.

Beyond him, there's still a young group they'll look to for another step forward in their second year under Flores.

In the past two drafts, Minnesota has used three top-half-of-the-draft selections on the position, picking Booth (42nd overall) and Evans (118th) in 2022 and Blackmon (102nd overall) in 2023. Each has had some ups and downs so far.

Jaylin Williams and Joejuan Williams each signed futures contracts to return in 2024.

Minnesota primarily used safety Josh Metellus as its fifth defensive back but also was multiple over the course of the season.

Will the Vikings look to add more experience in free agency? Will they utilize another draft pick?

  1. Forcing more turnovers

A consistent theme emerged among Vikings defenders after the season ended. Returning players are eager to build upon what they started with Flores. From Weeks 4 to 14, the Vikings defense was first in defensive efficiency, but that number fell off as injuries mounted during the team's unsuccessful playoff push.

Minnesota also finished 20th in takeaways with 22. Increasing that number next season would amplify the impact the Vikings cornerbacks have within Flores' defense.

"I love what [Flores] brought to this team," Murphy said. "Physicality, knowing the players, what they're doing, and putting them in the best positions on the field. I'm appreciative to have him as a coach."