Week 1: 4 Vikings Players to Watch vs. Packers 

The Vikings Final Injury Report: Week 11
Aug 20, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings linebacker Za'Darius Smith. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

The 2022 NFL season is upon us. The Vikings begin with a Week 1 encounter on home turf against the Packers. New head coach Kevin O’Connell leads the Vikings for the first time. Along with a number of new faces, which is what my list of 5 Vikings players to watch vs Packers is centered around. Along with one returning player.

1. Za’Darius Smith

Za'Darius Smith Renews Vow for Vengeance on Sunday
Jul 28, 2022; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings linebacker Za’Darius Smith. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

It’s fair to say that Za’Darius Smith is fired up to face his former employer. He is the sort of character to thrive in this sort of situation. He will be extra determined to make a big impression and I expect him to do so. Look out for him being in Aaron Rodgers face all game. Due to injury, Smith will be playing in his first game for a year. It’s an incredible twist of fate that he comes up against his former team. Fate also points to a big day for the second team All-Pro pass rusher.

2. Jordan Hicks

PurplePTSD: Deepest Roster Position, Jordan Hicks and 'The Look,' Lions as a Foe
Oct 17, 2021; Cleveland, Ohio, USA; Arizona Cardinals middle linebacker Jordan Hicks. Mandatory Credit: Scott Galvin-USA TODAY Sports.

Another free agent signing that will have a big part to play this season. Though will likely go somewhat under the radar. Along with Eric Kendricks, Jordan Hicks will have the big job of containing the middle of the field to allow the Vikings to unleash their edge rushers.

Much like his new teammate Hicks is a tackling machine. In 2021 he had 116 tackles, compared to 143 for Kendricks. Along with Harrison Smith who notched 114 tackles and rookies Cine and Brian Asamoah, the Vikings are set to unleash some fierceness this season. It starts with Hicks and Kendricks.

3. Irv Smith Jr.

Minnesota Vikings tight end Irv Smith (84) celebrates after catching a 10-yard touchdown pass during the second half of an NFL football game against the Denver Broncos, Sunday, Nov. 17, 2019, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Bruce Kluckhohn)

The only man on this list who won’t be taking the field as a Viking for the first time. However, it’s been a long time since we’ve seen Irv Smith on the field. Knee surgery saw him miss the entire 2021 season and an operation on a thumb caused him to miss preseason.

The Vikings tight end was all set for a breakout season last year before injury derailed his progression. It looks as though he should be ready to play against the Packers, but it’s been so long since he played. What will he look like? You have to expect some rust, but with the Vikings lacking in depth at the position, they need him back up to speed as quickly as possible.

4. Akayleb Evans

Aug 20, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; San Francisco 49ers running back Jordan Mason (41) runs while Minnesota Vikings cornerback Akayleb Evans (21) defends during the fourth quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

Akayleb Evans is quickly becoming the darling of the Vikings fanbase. His willingness to interact with fans as well as his infectious personality. He has everyone rooting for him.

How much playing time will he get this Sunday? It might not be much, but Evans has impressed enough so far that the rookie’s place on the 53-man roster was never in doubt. Even if he doesn’t get much playing time in Week 1, he will be worth looking out for just for the purple hair he has promised!