Lost in the excitement of yesterday’s win over the Carolina Panthers is the potential loss of Alex Boone. The Minnesota Vikings’ starting left guard was injured in the second quarter and did not return to the game. His hip injury will require an MRI this afternoon and adds another offensive lineman to Eric Sugarman’s cadre of “patients.”
Boone’s status is up-in-the-air, leaving the Vikings without two starters up front. Matt Kalil underwent hip surgery of his own on Thursday, ending his season just two games into the 2016 campaign. Second-year tackle T.J. Clemmings stepped into Kalil’s role on Sunday, performing well enough to keep Sam Bradford upright against the Panthers.
Jeremiah Sirles replaced Boone midway through the second quarter and held his own against a stout Carolina front. Asked after the game if he was worried about the injury, Boone simply told Brian Murphy, “All fine, all good.”
Xavier Rhodes made his season debut against the Panthers, giving Mike Zimmer the perfect antidote for Carolina’s most dangerous receiver — Kelvin Benjamin. When targeted, which was far and few between, Rhodes didn’t surrender a catch and appeared close to his normal self on the boundary.
The fourth-year corner felt a pop in his knee two weeks ago and spent both Week 1 and Week 2 on the sidelines. His return allowed Zimmer to flex the team’s cornerback depth, and in the stifling Carolina heat, doing so was a necessity. According to Matt Vensel, all six of Minnesota’s cornerbacks saw playing time on Sunday, with each making a significant contribution in the victory.
Cramps and the Climate
High humidity and 84-degree temperatures made life difficult for a few Vikings on Sunday. Late in the game, after spending nearly 34 minutes on the field, Eric Kendricks and Captain Munnerlyn suffered cramps. Both needed to leave the field, but neither is expected to miss time moving forward.
Everson Griffen left early in the game after throwing up on the sidelines. He went to the locker room, but returned quickly and led all Vikings with three sacks. Munnerlyn, in shock and awe after the game, called Griffen a “monster.” He added, “I don’t know what kind of medicine they gave him…they need to give me some,” per Chris Tomasson.
Griffen now has four sacks on the season, the second-highest total in the NFL.
In Need of Healthy Knees
Knee injuries continue to impact the Vikings. The phenomenon started with Rhett Ellison in Week 17 last season, then carried over to 2016 with Teddy Bridgewater and Adrian Peterson. While Bridgewater and Peterson are done for the season, Ellison is finally healthy; a positive development for an offense that lost another tight end on Sunday.
Rookie David Morgan left Sunday’s game with an undisclosed knee injury and did not return. In Minnesota’s Week 1 win over the Titans, Morgan was one of PFF’s top-ranked Vikings and provided extra help as a run blocker. If Morgan’s injury is severe, Ellison has the experience and ability to step into that role this season, much as he did in 2015.
While the possible loss of Boone and/or Morgan is unsettling, it’s a positive the Vikings left Carolina with so few bumps and bruises. Sunday’s game was a physical battle between two top-tier teams, one the Vikings escaped with a “W” and few significant injuries.