Christian Darrisaw Is a Go. Sort of.
For the first time in 2021, Minnesota Vikings rookie left tackle Christian Darrisaw is fully healthy, at least according to the team’s injury report.
#CLEvMIN injury report
OUT: Ihmir Smith-Marsette
QUESTIONABLE: Anthony Barr, Kris Boyd, Dalvin Cook, Michael Pierce
— Minnesota Vikings (@Vikings) October 1, 2021
General Manager Rick Spielman drafted Darrisaw with the 23rd overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft after trading back from the 14th pick in a deal that landed Wyatt Davis and Kellen Mond on the roster. Immediately, Darrisaw was theorized as the team’s LT1 because veteran Riley Reiff was released in March. He wound up with the Cincinnati Bengals.
But Darrisaw’s rookie progression during the summer was close to nonexistent. He didn’t see much action, indicating an injury was still lingering. Then, out of nowhere, Darrisaw opted for a second surgery to heal a nagging groin ailment. Ergo, Darrisaw has not taken a regular season snap — or even a preseason one — to date.
That will change soon.
However, Darrisaw is not slated as the LT1 right now. He’s the LT2 behind veteran backup Rashod Hill. Head coach Mike Zimmer is notorious for slow-rolling rookies into game time, and Darrisaw appears no exception. Hell, even Justin Jefferson took three games to hit stride in 2020. Don’t expect Darrisaw to see intense action for a couple of weeks per Zimmer’s modus operandi.
And, you know, there are the words from the horse’s mouth. Offensive coordinator Klint Kubiak affirmed Hill’s grip on the left tackle job is secure — for now.
#Vikings offensive coordinator Klint Kubiak said Rashod Hill is definitely the starting left tackle.: "Rashod's our guy."
— Chris Tomasson (@christomasson) September 30, 2021
That’s the cliche vote of confidence, but it is noteworthy because it vividly signals Darrisaw will not start versus the Cleveland Browns in Week 4. It’s going to take a minute.
Hill won’t last as the starting left tackle for too long. The unit is performing surprisingly well, but it is not a Hill-driven success. Through three weeks, Hill ranks as the NFL’s third-worst tackle per Pro Football Focus.
So, it’s not like Darrisaw is knocking at Trent Williams’ door here. Or more apropos — Wyatt Davis isn’t taking over for Oli Udoh anytime soon. Udoh is playing tremendously. Hill is not.
Plus, Darrisaw is a 1st-Round talent. He should already be starting. Yet, the injuries disabled his maturation for the first month of the season.
As soon as Darrisaw does get his moment on the Vikings offensive line, the fivesome is practically a brand new bunch. From left to right — Darrisaw, Ezra Cleveland, Garrett Bradbury, Oli Udoh, and Brian O’Neill is a source of new hope. Before this concoction, the Vikings always patched together a makeshift solution, resulting in one of the league’s worst for pass protection. Slowly, that is changing in Minnesota. Here’s proof:
Team Pass Block Grade + Rank,
Since 2014 per @PFF:
2014: 72.4 (23rd)
2015: 67.9 (28th)
2016: 64.7 (30th)
2017: 71.9 (17th)
2018: 63.6 (27th)
2019: 63.0 (27th)
2020: 55.5 (29th)
*2021: 59.5 (16th)
* thru 3 wks
Apologies for messing up the first one w/ PB 'efficiency.'
— Dustin Baker (@DustBaker) September 27, 2021
Since Kirk Cousins joined the franchise in 2018, fans have clamored for pass protection that is average-at-worst. It did not happen in 2018, 2019, or 2020. Fast forward to 2021, and the vibe is different.
When the Rashod Hill era dries up, the addition of Darrisaw only spikes the OL potential.
And his absence from the injury report — for the first time — is a tip of the hat he’s close to his debut.
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).
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