Into the Fire: How Well WIll Andrew Booth Jr. Handle his First Career Start?

The Minnesota Vikings may be rolling as a team right now, but the brutal nature of an NFL season is starting to take its toll. With Cameron Dantzler on Injured Reserve and Akayleb Evans out for this game, Minnesota finds itself reaching down its depth chart to fill their secondary this Sunday. One of the players pulled up is Andrew Booth Jr, a second-round rookie out of Clemson. Often, and especially at cornerback, rookies take quite a long time to adjust to the professional level. He’s had about three months, give or take, to prepare for his debut. What could we expect from this “trial by fire?”

All Credits Completed
Booth played in 13 games as a true freshman in 2019, but didn’t really do much of note. The next two years are what built his profile. As a sophomore the next year, he’d start four of eleven games, tallying 27 tackles, two interceptions, a sack, and a fumble recovery for a touchdown. That statline netted Booth second team All-ACC, and he’d only get better in his last year in South Carolina. 37 tackles, three interceptions, and five passes defended snagged him first team All-ACC honors in his third and final season. In a 2022 Draft loaded with CB talent, Booth managed to slip to the second round. Unlike the majority of the other secondary players taken, Booth has taken a back seat on the team that spent an early pick on him.

Pressure Makes Diamonds (I Hope)
The regular track record of rookie corners starting Week 1 (outside of very rare examples, like Sauce Gardner this year) is most likely the reason the call was made to lower him on the depth chart. It didn’t sound like Booth Jr specifically performed poorly during training camp, and his college career doesn’t show him being unqualified/from a weak conference. With that all considered, I’m hoping he at least isn’t a glaring weak spot this Sunday. I’m always a very skeptical fan, so I’m not getting my hopes up that he’ll light the field aflame. Even with that, I don’t think it’s realistic to say he’ll completely crumble. The ACC always brings the atmosphere so he’s used to pressure, plus he’s making his debut at a home game. If I had to make a guess at a statline, I’d say seven tackles and a pass breakup or two is more than fair. Patrick Peterson should serve as a really strong mentor, even during the game. I feel like he’ll almost be an on-field coach with so many inexperienced players seeing the field. I mean, we saw Duke Shelley, a player we signed up from the practice squad the day before, make a game-changing pass breakup. Having a rock-solid presence in such an area of need for this team is going to play a massive part in not only this game, but for the regular and postseason upcoming. It’s all up to Booth, though, to prove his readiness at this level. He appeared sparsely throughout last week’s match against the Buffalo Bills, hopefully serving as an experience springboard. We’ll just have to see how the match shakes out for the rookie’s first ever starter action in the NFL.
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