The Vikings Have Lost Confidence in Lewis Cine

Aug 19, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Tennessee Titans running back Tyjae Spears (32) runs the ball as Minnesota Vikings safety Lewis Cine (6) looks to make the tackle during the first quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Actions speak louder than words, a maxim that’s especially true in the NFL.

At various points during the offseason, the Vikings’ leadership made a point of praising Lewis Cine. The sophomore safety played sparingly in 2022 — just a pair of snaps on defense by Week 4 — before a leg injury ended his season. The spring and summer months, though, brought news of an encouraging recovery process alongside an eagerness to get back onto the gridiron. So, some optimism, especially since the aggressive Brian Flores would likely be thrilled to use the aggressive Lewis Cine.

Aug 20, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings safety Lewis Cine (6) lines up during the second quarter against the San Francisco 49ers at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

Plenty of people encouraged patience with the safety. After all, he was a rookie and suffered a horrible injury. Plus, Ed Donatell didn’t inspire too much confidence in the Twin Cities. Maybe Cine will figure it out before long.

Fast forward a year and things aren’t looking very good.

Right now, Harrison Smith, Camryn Bynum, Josh Metellus, and Theo Jackson are above Cine on the depth chart. The snap distribution in the discouraging loss to the Eagles confirmed as much.

Lewis Cine and The Opportunity that Isn’t Arriving

Social media was sure to react to the Theo Jackson entry into the game. When Josh Metellus needed to leave, Jackson was the one who got onto the field. PFF’s Sam Monson chimed in, noting, “Vikings have a starting safety off the field, line up with 3 safeties on defense and none of them is Lewis Cine.”

Kevin Seifert responded, explaining that Cine’s placement on the depth chart has been evident for a little while: “That has been the case since mid-camp or so. Lewis Cine is the fifth safety on this team behind Harrison Smith, Cam Bynum, Josh Metellus and Theo Jackson.” Seifert’s point is well taken, and yet there’s something to be said for the team actually making the decision to nominate Jackson for playing time in a real game instead of the 1st-rounder.

NFL: Preseason-Minnesota Vikings at Seattle Seahawks
Aug 10, 2023; Seattle, Washington, USA; Minnesota Vikings safety Theo Jackson (25) and linebacker Ivan Pace Jr. (40) tackle Seattle Seahawks running back Zach Charbonnet (26) during the game at Lumen Field. Mandatory Credit: Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

By the end of the contest, Jackson had scooped up 21 snaps on defense and 18 on special teams. Not a bad day of work for the backup safety and 2022 6th-round pick (by the Titans). Meanwhile, Cine didn’t see any time for the defense, though he did pick up 13 snaps on special teams.

For a lot of Vikings fans, the frustration isn’t constrained to just a 1st-round selection struggling to get his career off the ground. On a yearly basis, opening-round selections begin their careers in an underwhelming manner, so that’s not reason to fully give way to the all-too-typical Vikings doom and gloom.

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

The major issue for a lot of people will be the trade. Kwesi Adofo-Mensah made the controversial decision to drop from 12th overall to 32nd overall and with a division rival, no less. What made the move so stunning was that the Vikings failed to pickup a future 1st. Giving up 20 slots in the opening round without securing a future 1st is, well, a decision.

Plus, Kyle Hamilton was still on the board. The Vikings could have snagged the impact safety at 12 but instead opted to equip their division rival with very strong pick while picking up a questionable return in the process. Understandably, there’s some doubt about that move from the GM.

Now, Cine is still only 23. His 9.92 RAS score suggests the Vikings are dealing with a unique, special athlete. The final chapter hasn’t been written for the safety; fans need to remember that.

As of right now, though, Cine doesn’t have the confidence of the coaching staff. The barebones facts from Week 1 and 2 make that abundantly clear.

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

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.