Camryn Bynum’s emergence has made him the Minnesota Vikings Gambit

(Photo by Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports) Camryn Bynum #43
(Photo by Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports) Camryn Bynum #43 /
Minnesota Vikings
(Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images) Camryn Bynum – Minnesota Vikings /

Camryn Bynum has stepped up to become a versatile chess piece for the Minnesota Viking’s defense.

The Queen’s Gambit is an intricate opening move in chess that consists of three moves  (and a solid 7-episode Netflix miniseries). The Vikings have three safeties with the emergence of the rookie Cam Bynum that have the versatility of a queen chess piece, which can move in any direction across a chessboard.

In his first two starts as a Viking since Harrison Smith was sidelined due to COVID-19, Bynum has a combined 17-tackles, a sack, an interception, two passes defended, and a partridge in a pear tree. Of all rookies who have played 100+ snaps this season, Bynum’s overall grade of 90.5 ranks him at the very top of the list.

Bynum appears to be the heir-apparent to Harrison Smith in Minnesota, playing 45 snaps inside the box as well as 26 snaps in the slot. Bynum has shown the versatility of a queen chess piece which is exactly how the Vikings have used Smith over the course of his career.

Bynum has exhibited versatility as a player from his special teams success in college as a California Golden Bear as well as making the transition from corner to safety after being drafted by the Vikings.

Cam Bynum has been and will be a pivotal piece for The Minnesota Vikings defense going forward.

When Harrison Smith eventually returns to the Vikings lineup, it will allow both Bynum and Smith to freestyle more and wreak havoc on opposing offenses. Having Smith and Bynum is like having two queen pieces in a game of chess. Mike Zimmer has had his struggles as head coach for the Minnesota Vikings, but one thing he does very well is design blitzes for his defensive backs.

Bynum’s sack last week against the Chargers is a great example of a Zimmer blitz scheme. Zimmer had Bynum blitz from depth, which allowed Bynum to get a free run at Charger’s quarterback Justin Herbert. Because Bynum came from depth, Herbert did not identify Bynum as a threat in pass protection.

Bynum starts out on the play at the same depth as linebacker Eric Kendricks, who had an incredible interception off Herbert earlier in the game. Herbert Identifies Kendricks as a blitzer in pass protection and sends the back to pick him up along with sliding the front side of the offensive line to the field. As the back side of the line picks up the edge rusher and defensive tackle, it allows Bynum to run free and come up with a huge sack on third down.

Another caveat about this blitz is the way Bynum and linebacker Nick Vigil swap places to fool Herbert. Pre-snap, Vigil is aligned in the A-Gap to show that he is blitzing. This immediately draws the attention of the center’s eyes and when Vigil drops back into coverage post-snap, the center does not even see Bynum blitzing through.

This type of blitz is something that Zimmer has had a lot of success using Harrison Smith for. Smith’s 14.5 sacks in his time with the Vikings ranks him 20th all-time among defensive backs and second among active players behind Seattle’s Jamal Adams.

The Vikings have had some key losses this season on the defensive side of the ball. Patrick Peterson being out for multiple weeks with a hamstring injury and star defensive-end Danielle Hunter being out for the rest of the season are two massive blows to this defense.

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However, the emergence of Bynum and pairing that with the tandem of Harrison Smith and Xavier Woods gives the Vikings’ defense depth and versatility at a time in the season where injuries mount up and depth is crucial.

The Vikings may have found their own Gambit with the three chess pieces of Bynum, Smith, and Woods.