An unsung Vikings player has led the team in playing time this season

xavier wood

The 2021 Minnesota Vikings haven’t been highlighted by much positivity — aside from Justin Jefferson’s star affirmation, rookie Christian Darrisaw’s rise to left tackle and a commitment to change leadership the Black Monday – but a little-known fact is visible in the post-season numbers.

Somehow, Xavier Woods has played more snaps than any other Vikings player in 2021. He played 1208 defensive snaps, representing 100% of the time on defense. To be fair, Ezra Cleveland and Brian O’Neill were in the game for every offensive snap, but Minnesota was in the field more defensively than offensively — likely why the franchise ended 2021 with a losing record.

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xavier wood

And Woods has been responsible for a relatively good safety season. He had 108 total tackles, 10 passes defended, three interceptions, two forced fumbles and a 66.7 rating. from Focus on professional football. Of all the safeties, Woods’ PFF score ranked 39th in the NFL, just ahead of Kansas City Chiefs “Honey Badger” Tyrann Mathieu.

Woods was the NFL’s third-best safety in run defense by PFF, behind only Jimmie Ward of the San Francisco 49ers and Marcus Epps (who was drafted by the Vikings) with the Philadelphia Eagles in the metric. His rating was dragged down by suspicious pass coverage, scoring 58.3 – 0.1 points below his predecessor Anthony Harris, who played for the Eagles this season.

In an upcoming offseason filled with expected changes, Woods is a free agent. He played on a one-year, $1.75 million contract in 2021 and will be a free agent in a few months. It’s unclear whether the new GM will retain Woods or hand the job over to Camryn Bynum, a rookie who made the most of his opportunity when Harrison Smith missed playing time in 2021.

Woods turns 27 this summer, and his 17 starts this season was the first time in his career that he’s started every game. Drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in the same cycle as the Vikings found Dalvin Cook, the 6th-rounder from Lousiana Tech received a full audition in Minnesota, enjoying more playing time than anyone. His three picks this season were a career high.

After failing to reach the playoffs, Woods recounted his first season with the Vikings, “I had ups and downs, but I just wanted to win and make the playoffs, but we didn’t. So I consider it a failure.

No other Vikings defenseman has started all 17 games.

Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. He host a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, airing every Wednesday with Raun Saw and Sally from Minneapolis. His Viking fandom dates back to 1996. Guilty pleasures listed: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, “The Sopranos” and The Doors (the band).

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