The Vikings Most Important Non-Star
Much has been made about the rise of Christian Darrisaw this offseason. First, it was speculation. Then it was reality. It was a common occurrence to see big number 71 pushing pass rushers to the ground in training camp; his performance led to starry-eyed comparisons to another left tackle that wears 71.
Much has also been made about the offensive line situation at TCO Performance Center. Outside of veteran Brian O’Neill, the Vikings front five has plenty to prove this season. For that unit to not be a weak link, youngsters such as Ed Ingram and Darrisaw need to play to their potential.
In a league that has become heavily focused on garnering elite pass rushes, having stout pass blockers, especially at the tackle positions, is vital. While O’Neill has locked down the right end of the line since 2018, the left edge became uncertain when Riley Reiff left in free agency in 2021. Last season, Minnesota employed three different starting LTs.
The Vikings dearly would like to see that number stay at one all season. Darrisaw missed five total games with injury in his 2021 rookie season, headlined by a groin injury he played through while at Virginia Tech in 2020. He was also sidelined for two games with an ankle injury later in the season. Considering how much of a wild card the line will be as a whole, having a healthy and productive Darrisaw is paramount to their success. If Ingram and embattled center Garrett Bradbury struggle, Minnesota cannot afford to see Darrisaw hit a sophomore slump or spend too much time in the blue tent.
Offensive Line coach Chris Kuper and the rest of the coaching staff were clearly impressed by Darrisaw, as there seemed to be no competition whatsoever at the LT position throughout camp. Further, Darrisaw sat out each of the final two preseason games, a designation typically reserved for players who have all but solidified their roster spots  .
Two of the aforementioned starters who rested during the preseason, Za’Darius Smith and Danielle Hunter, are Darrisaw’s competition each day. The Vikings couldn’t have picked a better duo to prepare their rising star for the gauntlet to start the season: Minnesota opens with Green Bay and Philadelphia, both of which employ defensive lines ranked in the top 10, per PFF. Moreover, the Vikings face 15 of the top 32 ranked edge rushers in the 2022 season, many of which Darrisaw will be tasked to defend.
All told, Christian Darrisaw proves to be an irreplaceable cog in the Vikings machine in 2022. Outside of the obvious suspects – Justin Jefferson, Hunter/Smith, Kirk Cousins, Dalvin Cook – Darrisaw may just be the Vikings most important non-star heading into 2022. Not only is he holding down a crucial position, but Minnesota also holds high expectations for the 2021 first-round pick and is counting on him to grow into the player all hope he will be.
Darrisaw will get his first chance to display his growth in Week 1 against Rashad Gary and the formidable Green Bay pass rush on September 11 at US Bank Stadium.
Will is a husband, father of two, and a lifelong Minnesotan. He earned an undergraduate degree in Economics (just like Kwesi Adofo-Mensah). He became a Vikings fan in 2009 when Brett Favre stole his heart. Will’s favorite pastimes are water skiing, Minnesota sports, and Cinnamon Toast Crunch. He is the co-host of the Load the Box Vikings Podcast with Jordan Hawthorn. Follow him on Twitter (@willbadlose) and find his other sports content at Twins Daily and his very own Bad Loser Blog.