When Will We See the Vikings Rookies?
After two weeks of the season, the Minnesota Vikings have used their 2021 rookies the least out of any team in the NFL. Rookies have combined for just four offensive and defensive snaps so far, and all four came in Week 1 against the Cincinnati Bengals. All four went to wide receiver Ihmir Smith-Marsette. It shouldn’t be a surprise to Vikings fans or anyone else. This is the team that started Bisi Johnson over Justin Jefferson for two weeks last season.
Writing on the subject for Pro Football Focus, Michael Renner said, “Mike Zimmer still hates rookies.” While that may be a bit extreme, Zimmer certainly does value experience highly. It might be a case of having to wait for season two, as KJ Osborn had to do. The rookies will have to start by impressing on special teams and wait for their chance. Whenever it comes, it’s on them to take it.
Vikings selected 11 players in last April's draft
None of them played an offensive or defensive snap against the Cardinals on Sunday
— Mike Renner (@PFF_Mike) September 21, 2021
The most likely to have been playing would be the 23rd overall pick, left tackle Christian Darrisaw. A nagging groin injury that required a second surgery in August means Vikings fans have seen next to nothing from this year’s 1st round pick so far. However, he has been back on the training field, doing light practice/individual drills, causing optimism that he’s now not too far away. How they bring Darrisaw into the fold will be interesting. To throw him straight in as starting tackle the moment he is physically ready would be a big ask. Easing him in would feel more appropriate. How long they take to do that may well depend on the performance of Rashid Hill.
4 of the 11 rookies drafted this year have been out of contention. Kene Nwangwu is on short-term injured reserve and may get a chance later in the season. Unlike, Janarius Robinson who is out for the season after being placed on IR before the 53 man roster was set, and Jaylen Twyman, who is on reserve/non-football injury, after an unfortunate incident that saw him get shot.
Zach Davidson is the only drafted rookie on the practice squad, along with undrafted rookies AJ Rose, Tuf Borland, Myron Mitchell, and Whop Philyor. That leaves seven rookies in the Vikings 53 man roster. So when are we going to see them?
When are these offensive players likely to see action?
Kellen Mond – honestly, the only time I can see Mond being on the field is if the season goes horribly wrong and we are out of playoff contention early. Or we make the playoffs with a game to spare, and they give him an outing in a meaningless week 18. The fact they’ve brought Sean Mannion back and Mond has been a healthy scratch the first two weeks. It says to me the plans are for Mond to do nothing more than sit and watch this season.
Ihmir Smith-Marsette – the player who has had the four snaps, and so the most likely to be seen contributing first. I would like to see the use of Smith-Marsette’s speed and skills as a kick returner put to good use on offense. He can be a problem for opposing defenses, who already have Cook, Jefferson, Thielen, and now KJ Osborn to deal with. So draw up some screens, jet sweeps, deep shots, and give opposing defenses something else to worry about.
Wyatt Davis – after the Bengals game, there were calls for Davis to come straight into the team. After an improved performance by the offensive line in week 2, that talk has been somewhat quelled. If Christian Darrisaw takes the left tackle spot, and Ezra Cleveland and Oli Udoh maintain performance more like the Cardinals game. Davis will have to bide his time and probably wait for an injury to get a chance. More games like the Bengals one and the wait might not be so long.
When are these defensive players likely to see action?
Camryn Bynum – the cornerback-turned-safety won’t surpass Harrison Smith or Xavier Woods this season. There is a chance of him getting on the field as the nickelback, as the defensive backs are rotated throughout the season.
Chazz Surratt – having been a healthy scratch last week despite Anthony Barr still being injured. It isn’t easy to be wildly optimistic for Surratt’s chances of seeing playing time soon. But, especially if Barr does come back in the next week or two, the first aim should be to get back on the field on special teams and make some plays there.
Patrick Jones – inactive in week 1. Jones was active against the Cardinals but didn’t see the field. Not even on special teams. If Everson Griffen is back from a concussion this week, it seems likely that Jones will be inactive again. It could be some time before Jones gets his chance.