There’s multiple reasons that Harrison Smith earned his fourth straight Pro Bowl nod earlier this week.
The Vikings safety can do a little bit of everything when he’s on the field.
But Matt Bowen of ESPN.com recently highlighted one of Smith’s traits that he feels stands out among the rest.
Bowen recently listed the best defensive backs around the league in various categories and tabbed Smith as the league’s best run defender at safety.
Smith, who has three sacks and three interceptions this season, is one of my favorite NFL players to watch. He has a complete game.
His ability to play the run consistently shows up in Mike Zimmer's defensive scheme. Whether aligning in the box, scraping off the edge, or rolling down late from a two-high look, the veteran closes to the ball and finishes. Plus, he has a great feel for creating angles to ball carriers. That allows Smith to pick through the wash — when the run box gets muddy — and cut down running backs at the point of attack. Smart, tough, athletic. Harrison has it all.
Smith ranks second on the Vikings with 82 tackles (team stats) and has seven pass breakups, seven tackles for loss, two fumble recoveries and a forced fumble.
His ability to help out near the line of scrimmage is a key reason why the Vikings rank fourth overall in the NFL with 314.3 yards allowed per game.
Krammer: O’Neill has been positive surprise in rookie season
The Vikings have had an up-and-down season, yet currently sit in a playoff spot with a 7-6-1 record and two games remaining in the regular season.
There have been positive and disappointing developments alike over the course of the 2018, but Andrew Krammer of the Star Tribune recently highlighted one player who has impressed in his first season in Purple.
Krammer wrote that rookie right tackle Brian O’Neill has been a pleasant surprise, as the 2018 second-round pick has worked his way into the starting lineup over the past two months.
The second-round pick was at risk of losing the swing tackle job (No. 3 on the depth chart) to Aviante Collins while O'Neill struggled during joint practices and a preseason game against the Jaguars. He's since started nine games at right tackle, taking the job from Rashod Hill while not surrendering a sack, according to Pro Football Focus. Now that doesn't mean O'Neill hasn't struggled. He's got room to grow (literally by adding muscle), but he's impressed coaches with his strides improving technique during just his fourth year playing offensive line. He looks like a solid foundational piece for the future, which is the goal when drafting in the second round.
O’Neill has started nine games but has played in all 13 games for the Vikings as a rookie.
He originally went to Pittsburgh as a tight end but moved to the offensive line after his redshirt freshman season. He started the final 37 games of his college career at offensive tackle.