Vikings Players to Watch vs. Bears

Vikings defeat in Baltimore
Nov 7, 2021; Baltimore, Maryland, USA; Minnesota Vikings cornerback Camryn Bynum (43) celebrates with outside linebacker Anthony Barr (55) after intercepting Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson (not pictured) during the first half at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

For the final time this season, I present some Vikings players to watch, but this time with a slight twist. With the season over and nothing to play for, it is to start looking to next season.

Mike Zimmer has said it will be the usual starters on Sunday, but that doesn’t necessarily mean there won’t be ample chance for others to shine, including this year’s rookie class and other players who have been around longer started to shine this season. So, these are my Vikings players to watch this week.

The Offensive Rookies

The big question is how much time will rookie Kellen Mond get on the field? He had one drive last week while Sean Mannion was having a drink of pickle juice. Unfortunately, that was a 3 and out involving a simple short pass, a good creative short pass under pressure, and a forced 3rd down throw that was fortunate not to be intercepted. No one would be more eagerly watched – if he gets on the field.

Ihmir Smith-Marsette and Kene Nwangwu were involved in the gameplan this year, and both show potential that can be built upon next season. Hopefully, both will see action this Sunday. The player I’d most like to catch a glimpse of on offense is the rookie guard. 

Wyatt Davis. I was excited when the Vikings drafted him in the third round, hoping he would be an immediate answer to the right guard position. That has not been the case. Davis hasn’t played a single offensive snap this season and has been limited to special teams. That’s when he been active on game day, which has only been six times. To be honest, given the not so glowing comments from the coaching staff. I don’t hold out much hope of seeing Davis on the offensive line.this Sunday.

The Defensive Rookies

Patrick Jones has started to see some involvement in the second half of the season, aided by the loss of Danielle Hunter and Everson Griffen. Defensive end is a problem position going into next season. A decision needs to be made on what to do with Hunter after another season-ending injury. Outside of him, the edge position hasn’t looked good. With veteran defensive tackle, Sheldon Richardson used as emergency cover to help out. 

Jones probably has the best chance out of the rookies to have a decent amount of playing time. Meanwhile, Chazz Surratt hasn’t played a single defensive snap, being consigned to special teams only. With the futures of Anthony Barr and Nick Vigil unknown, the linebacker position is another one that could see considerable change. Not making the field in your rookie doesn’t automatically mean you have no future – see KJ Osborn. Even if it’s just a few snaps late in the game, this is the time to have a look at a player like Surratt.

The Breakthrough Players

There are some players who should definitely see some playing time. Players who have had varying levels of breakthroughs this season. With Michael Pierce doubtful to play, Armon Watts should be in line for his ninth start of the season deputizing once again for Pierce. It surprises me they made that direct switch to play Watts at nose tackle when run defense is his weakness. As an interior pass rusher, he’s shown promise with five sacks this season.

The absence of Pierce would also give James Lynch plenty of opportunity in the middle of the defensive line. He’s shown some glimpses of promise and should be eager to put more good play on film before heading into his third year. The same goes for his namesake linebacker Blake Lynch, who has also shown some good flashes. Notably two-sack game at Detroit. As already noted, there could be change ahead at linebacker and Lynch needs a good performance to make sure his name is involved in that discussion for the right reasons.

Finally, the breakout star of the season is KJ Osborn. He will have another opportunity to play as the second wide receiver, with Adam Thielen not playing. He’s already put together a season way above anybody’s expectations and better than any other third receiver for the Vikings jas achieved in some time. He has totaled 49 catches for 634 yards and six touchdowns. He hasn’t managed a 100-yard game yet, the closest he came was 91 yards against Arizona in Week 2. It would be a fitting end to a breakthrough season if he could do it on the final day.

So, that wraps up my Vikings players to watch for this season. Fingers crossed some of these guys get the opportunity to shine on Sunday.