Luke Kuechly Dubs Vikings Secondary Best in NFL

Photo: Jeffrey Becker - USA TODAY Sports

Luke Kuechly was one of the best linebackers of the 21st century. From 2012 to 2019, Kuechly racked up 1,092 tackles and made 1st team All Pro in five of his eight seasons. He managed over 100 tackles every year of his career, including 164 as a rookie in 2012 and 153 in 2014, before it was cut short by head injuries.

It wasn’t just tackling where the former Boston College standout excelled, while holding down the middle linebacker position for the Carolina Panthers. Luke Kuechly collected 18 interceptions, 12.5 sacks, forced 7 fumbles and recovered 9 of them, during his 8 seasons. If anyone is qualified to give an opinion on NFL defense, it’s Kuechly.

Kuechly Loves Vikings Secondary

So, when the future hall of famer gets on ESPN and tells the world that the best NFL secondary in 2022 is that of the Minnesota Vikings, we should believe him… right?

“I’m gonna kind of go a different direction. I’m gonna go with the Vikings. Harrison Smith, Patrick Peterson and two young rookies; Lewis Cine out of Georgia and they draft [Andrew] Booth, out of Clemson. I think, when you talk about young guys coming into the league, I think the one important thing is, ‘where do they learn from and who do they learn from’?

You learn from two guys that have played at All-Pro levels for such a long time in Patrick Peterson and Harrison Smith. I’m excited to see young with some old. Patrick Peterson, great ball production. Harrison Smith, kind of a two-way player, can play in the run game and has also had some great ball production in his career, with interceptions and forced fumbles.”

Luke Kuechly (SportsCenter)

Let’s Pump the Brakes

It appears that Luke Kuechly showed up to this segment, prepared for a different question. Maybe, ‘What NFL defense could be underrated and end up surprising us in 2022?’ Either that, or I need some of whatever he’s eating and or smoking during lunch.

Kuechly might be right on Harrison Smith. Entering his 11th season at age 33, The Hitman is yet to show his age and continues to disrupt at all levels of the defense. But, father time is undefeated and the Vikings drafting Lewis Cine tells us they’re preparing for Smith’s decline.

At 32, Patrick Peterson is already far beyond his prime and the advanced metrics over at PFF shows it. Still, quarterbacks prefer to avoid him and he’s certainly still a positive on the field, but especially off of it. P2 has become one of the vocal leaders in a Minnesota Vikings locker room that needed veteran leadership.

Dose of Reality

On a good secondary laden with talent, both Smith and Peterson would be great glue pieces, even later in their careers. A defense where Harrison could feel comfortable roaming around, picking and choosing his opportunities like a lion constantly on the prowl. Maybe a defense where Pat P. could lock onto an opponent’s second-best WR all day, slowly crushing his personal moral.

But on the Vikings’ defense, both veterans will hold responsibilities that require them to perform at the top of their games. That, while babysitting and raising young, unproven talent around them. Patrick Peterson will match up against the best receivers in the league, week in and week out. A responsibility he’s no longer fit for. Smith will be tasked with raising and keeping track of Lewis Cine, while simultaneously making up for mistakes that He (Cine), Cam Dantzler, Andrew Booth and Harrison Hand will undoubtedly make.

Could Cine and Booth catch on faster than most rookies who fill out secondaries throughout the NFL every year? It’s possible, but given their draft slots at No. 32 and 34 respectively, the odds are against that happening. Chandon Sullivan, who was acquired in free agency, is an average slot CB. Cam Dantzler and Harrison Hand have both struggled to show growth through two seasons.

Trying to Imagine…

Yes, the last couple of paragraphs took a more pessimistic view of how 2022 could play out. But after the 36 seconds you watched of Luke “I Love the Vikings” Kuechly, it was warranted. It’s likely that reality lands somewhere between the two extremes (but probably closer to mine).

I just can’t force myself to imagine a 2022 NFL where the Vikings roster what is considered a top secondary. But I certainly hope that Kuechly is right and this blog, come December/January, proves my lack of football knowledge. Because a top secondary would completely change the prospects for the Minnesota Vikings’ upcoming season. Show me a great secondary at US Bank Stadium this fall and I’ll show you a Super Bowl parade in downtown Minneapolis come February.

Eric Strack | Minnesota Sports Fan