Alas, Christian Darrisaw Gets His Turn

Christian Darrisaw
EAGAN, MN – AUGUST 04: Minnesota Vikings offensive tackle Christian Darrisaw (71) looks on during training camp at Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center in Eagan, MN on August 4, 2021.(Photo by Nick Wosika/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Christian Darrisaw’s rookie growth was stunted this summer by injury, disabling his acclimation to the Minnesota Vikings offense.

The Virginia Tech alumnus was selected out of the 1st Round of the 2021 NFL Draft, a spot in the draft that generally mandates the player sees action immediately. And this theory was accelerated by the release of Riley Reiff in March, who was a part of the Vikings offensive line from 2017 to 2020. So, boom — the Vikings would own stalwart tackles on the opposite ends of their offensive line in Darrisaw and Brian O’Neill.

After a surprise surgery later in the summer, though, Darrisaw’s rookie stock plummeted. Minneapolis media members whispered Darrisaw’s surgery was a segue to the man missing most of the 2021 season.

That was false.

Darrisaw debuted for a minute in Week 4 against the Cleveland Browns. In Week 5, he was a semi-regular participant on offensive snaps.

On the whole, Darrisaw looked good in his rookie debut. Here’s the undeniable information:

Here’s the tape:

Darrisaw didn’t need to perform like an All-Pro during his first day on the job. But he did need to see meaningful action and hopefully not look imbecilic while doing so.

Mission accomplished.

The early-season incumbent LT Rashod Hill struggled before the start of Week 5. After five weeks, Hill’s Pro Football Focus grade is a meager 39.9. That ain’t gonna cut it anywhere. The score teeters on Dakota Dozier and Dru Samia territory from 2020 — two men scrutinized for poor performance.

Therefore, Darrisaw seeing action was a self-fulfilling prophecy. On 28 offensive snaps versus Detroit, Darrisaw fired up a 55.5 PFF score. That’s a respectable showing for one’s maiden voyage.

The Vikings coaching staff mixed-and-matched Darrisaw and Hill throughout the win over the Lions — a predictable strategy designed to get Darrisaw comfortable with the speed of the NFL.

All in all, it’s time for Darrisaw to seize the LT1 gig. It’s tempting to surmise “it can’t get any worse” than Hill’s 39.9 PFF score because, for the Vikings, it seems it can always get worse. Yet, Darrisaw did nothing on the field Sunday to indicate he wasn’t ready for the bright lights. The man is a 1st-Rounder, and 1st-Rounders are groomed to get a crack at the NFL’s point of professional entry.

What’s more, the Vikings offensive line — particularly the pass protection — has been woeful for several years. During one campaign — astonishingly (sarcasm), it was 2017 — the pass protection was decent. Since then, Minnesota’s pass protection typically ranks near the bottom of the league. Darrisaw was drafted to improve the trenches. Hill is not improving the trenches — he’s weakening them. So, the time for the Darrisaw era is now.

Riley Reiff did an admirable job for the Vikings at left tackle. But if Darrisaw clicks, he will bring stability to the left tackle spot for the first time since Bryant McKinnie — 19 years ago.

Darrisaw’s participation in Week 5 was his “shots fired” moment to ascend the depth chart as LT1.

Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sally from Minneapolis. His Viking fandom dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ and The Doors (the band).