Injuries and Inexperience: Is the Vikings’ Lack of Depth a Major Issue?

Following a 40-3 loss to the Cowboys last Sunday, the Vikings were in search of answers. Dak Prescott and the Cowboys’ offense had dismantled a depleted secondary and Kirk Cousins was hounded by the relentless Dallas pass rush. On the defensive side of the ball, the Vikings were thin at options with cornerback Cameryn Dantzler being placed on injured reserve earlier in the week. They turned to Andrew Booth Jr., the rookie second round pick from Clemson to make his first start. It went poorly and he was often picked on by Prescott in the open field. The injury to defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson hurt the rush defense, and the elite running back duo for Dallas had their way. They ran for a combined 122 rushing yards and 236 scrimmage yards. To make matters worse, standout left tackle Christian Darrisaw left the game with a concussion early and it resulted in Cousins being sacked 7 times. He was pressured on 63% of his dropbacks and with a lack of mobility for his position, it led to a stagnant offense throughout the game.

Going into the Patriots’ game, many believed the Vikings would struggle for a multitude of reasons. They were facing Matthew Judon, the league leader in sacks with 13. With Darrisaw still out, many expected him to swarm Cousins for the entire game. Being a primetime game, the critics were ready to jump on Cousins if he underperformed again under the lights. On defense, the secondary was in worse shape with injuries to Dantzler, Booth, and Akayleb Evans. Mac Jones was expected to have a great day and the Pats looked to be in a good position. The Vikings instead flipped the script with a 33-26 victory. Jefferson led the way and the defense did just enough to prevail. After the victory, questions still remained about the health, experience, and playoff chances of this team.

The cornerback injuries have varying timelines. Dantzler was placed on injured reserve 2 weeks ago, meaning he is required to miss at least 2 more games. Evans is expected back within the next couple weeks as the concussion figures to go away. Booth on the other hand, could potentially be more of a long term worry. He has dealt with nagging injuries in the past including core and knee surgeries. That was a major concern surrounding him at the draft and early into his NFL career, injuries seem to continue to be playing a significant role. With a beat up Dantzler and an aging Patrick Peterson, he was someone the Vikings hoped they could rely on this year and in the future. So far he has been unreliable and has had trouble staying on the field. The emergence of Duke Shelley has been promising, but as they face tougher receiving cores, it is unknown how he will perform.

On the offensive line, Darrisaw should be back from his concussion next week against the Jets. Although, it may not be that simple with the NFL tightening the concussion protocols after the Tua debacle. The Vikings need him back quickly to protect Cousins. Another injury to the core guys on the offensive line could spell disaster. The line depth is unproven and in a playoff atmosphere, inexperienced linemen could be the reason the Vikings are shut out on the big stage. Another player to keep an eye on is Adam Thielen. He has come up limping on multiple occasions and is certainly headed towards the end of his prime.

The Vikings’ lack of depth is deeply concerning especially as they approach playoff time. To achieve success, the veteran leaders including Patrick Peterson and Harrison Smith must play a crucial role in developing the young talent at their positions. Cousins needs to adapt to the changing offensive line, and his throws have to come out quicker. Coach O’Connell will have to adjust the game plan if things go south again like they did against the Cowboys. Justin Jefferson will have to put the offense on his back at times to be successful. All parts of this team have to be clicking at the same time if they want to be a team to remember for years to come.
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10 months ago

These articles always lighten up my day

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