Coming off of an absolutely huge win against the Buffalo Bills Sunday afternoon, the Minnesota Vikings are looking to continue their current 7 game win streak with their next game against the Dallas Cowboys at home.
One concern the Vikings have had this season has been their pass defense, ranking in the bottom half of the league in most categories. They have let up the 7th most Completion Percentage at 67.4%, 2nd most Yards Per Attempt at 7.4 yards, and 7th most passing yards with 2366. There have been some highlights such as Harrison Smith and Patrick Peterson showing their veteran experience as they are both top 5 in the league in interceptions (Harrison Smith – 4) and passes defended (Patrick Peterson – 12). However, despite having some very good veterans, this young Minnesota Vikings secondary has struggled, especially when it has come to injuries.
The Vikings used their 1st Round pick this year on Georgia Safety Lewis Cine. Cine had an amazing training camp, but didn’t play until Week 4 against the Saints in London. Cine would suffer a compound fracture in his left ankle, meaning his rookie season ended in the game it started in.
Cameron Dantzler Sr. has been having an average sophomore season compared to his very promising rookie season, beating out 1st round pick Jeff Gladney for a starting DB job. Dantzler has allowed 32 receptions (4 per game) this year and 298 yards (37.3 per game). Dantzler suffered an ankle injury in the Vikings game against the Washington Commanders and is expected to miss the next 3-5 weeks.
Vikings 4th Round pick Akayleb Evans took over for Dantzler against the Bills for his first career start on Sunday after an impressive takeover for Dantzler against the Commanders in Week 9. Evans exited the game against the Bills midway through the game because of a concussion and has been placed in concussion protocol, likely benching him for next week’s game against the Dallas Cowboys.
Vikings Head Coach Kevin O’Connell reported about Evans’ condition Monday, stating “I don’t really want to get into symptoms and different speculation on what that will look like throughout the week,” O’Connell said. “I think it’s very important that we let the medical team and that protocol play itself out as far as their availability. We’ll keep you guys updated, but I think it’s very important that we rely on the medical team and make sure that the player’s health and safety is the number one priority when dealing with that.”
Vikings rookie 2nd Round Pick Andrew Booth Jr. came into the game for Evans after missing every game this season because of consecutive ankle and quad injuries. Booth lined up against Stefon Diggs for the majority of his rookie debut and struggled immensely, allowing 4 receptions for 43 yards and a crucial pass interference call against him within the last 10 seconds of the game which allowed the Bills to kick a chip shot, game tying field goal to send the game into overtime. Booth was then replaced in overtime.
Booth was replaced in overtime by recently called up from the practice squad cornerback Duke Shelly. Shelly had a very crucial pass breakup in the endzone while covering tight end Dawson Knox, the play before Patrick Peterson’s game-ending interception. Shelly may have gotten away with a hold on Knox’s jersey, but it may not have been a large enough hold to be pass interference in the first place.
Booth and Shelly are slated to be competing for the CB2 position next week against a Cowboys pass offense that has been on, off this year, coming off a pretty bad game against the struggling Green Bay Packers. Akayleb Evans may be back in the lineup for the game, but he is day to day for now in concussion protocol.
The Cowboys will want to take advantage of this banged up Vikings secondary if Evans does not not play, however if Evans does play, it seems that Patrick Peterson will be lined up against Ceedee Lamb, Evans against Michael Gallup, and slot corner Chandon Sullivan paired up against Noah Brown. If Evans does not play however, it is likely that Andrew Booth Jr. or Duke Shelly will take over at covering Michael Gallup or Noah Brown as the Vikings tend to shift Sullivan around during games.
The Vikings are no strangers to their season being ruined by injuries to crucial parts of their team, but can their defense pull through without some vital players in the upcoming weeks? Time will only tell, and if all goes well for this Vikings squad, we might see them atop the NFC after this week or weeks to come.