Unsung Hero: Cam Bynum

90 minutes before kickoff Sunday, the Minnesota Vikings announced that star safety Harrison Smith would be placed on the reserve/Covid-19 list. Facing off against the Baltimore Ravens, the defense already had its hands full. Filling in for Smith was fourth-round rookie Cam Bynum, a college cornerback who was drafted by the Vikings to play safety.

Bynum said back in April that he’d learn everything he could from Smith. “He’ll probably get annoyed and bothered, but I’m going to be in his ear asking all sorts of questions,” the rookie told reporters. After playing primarily special teams during the first seven games of his rookie season, Bynum not only started, but he splashed much like the safety he bothered for seven months. Despite the 34-31 loss, Bynum was perhaps the Vikings’ brightest spot on the day.

Cam Bynum’s Sunday Performance

With a Pro Football Focus grade of 90.0, Bynum was the highest-rated player for Minnesota. He was a reliable tackler, racking up all 11 tackle attempts on the day. He was credited with four “stops”, tackles that PFF constitutes as an “offensive failure”.

His biggest play, though, was after the two-minute warning of the first half. Lamar Jackson tried firing a pass down the middle of the field for tight end Mark Andrews. But Bynum read Jackson’s eyes and broke on the ball, making an incredible diving interception that was returned 27 yards to the Ravens’ 16-yard line. It helped set up a field goal that gave the Vikings a 17-3 lead.

Bynum succeeded despite getting a heavy workload in his first extended action. He played all 98 defensive snaps and lined up all over the field. This included 25 times in the box, 48 times at free safety, four times on the defensive line, 18 times at slot corner, and three times at outside corner. Sounds a lot like the guy he was filling in for.

Conclusion

Vikings safety Cam Bynum accomplished the rare feat of thriving as a rookie in Zimmer’s secondary. With short notice and being a Day 3 draft pick, no one would have faulted Bynum for having a rough day, especially against an explosive offense like Baltimore’s. But the rookie rose to the occasion and helped put the Vikings in a position to win.

Harrison Smith won’t play this week against the Chargers either. Another strong showing would go a long way for Bynum as he is the only Vikings rookie outside of Christian Darrisaw to get extended snaps from scrimmage at this point in the season. With Smith getting older and Xavier Woods on a one-year deal, Bynum could play his way into the starting lineup heading into 2022.