Vikings Could Be without Key Defender in London

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The Minnesota Vikings revealed an injury update on Thursday, three days before the franchise takes on the New Orleans Saints.

Headlining the prominent injuries was the knee of Za’Darius Smith, who missed practice for a second consecutive day.

Rookie Andrew Booth also didn’t practice, perhaps trending toward missing a third straight game. Dalvin Cook, C.J. Ham, Eric Kendricks, and Harrison Smith returned on Thursday after popping on the injury report Wednesday.

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The Vikings added Smith in March, the first major free-agent addition of the offseason. At the time, the Smith acquisition proved the Vikings new leadership regime of Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and Kevin O’Connell was “in it to win it” when the franchise could’ve reasonably opted for a full rebuild.

Yet, through three games, sticking with the existing roster seemed like a sound plan as the Vikings own a 2-1 record. And with that right-side-up record, Smith has been a vital contributor. His 77.7 Pro Football Focus grade through three weeks is the second-best score on the team, trailing only safety Josh Metellus (82.6).

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Too, Smith has produced 8 tackles, 4 QB hits, and 2 sacks. He also leads the NFL in tackles for loss with 5. If Smith cannot play in England, third-year EDGE rusher D.J. Wonnum would be the next man up, possibly with a side dish of Patrick Jones, who the Vikings found in the 3rd Round of the 2021 NFL Draft. Wonnum has been on the field for 87 defensive plays to Jones’ 46 so far in 2022.

Minnesota can’t really afford to lose key defenders as the defense has struggled at points in 2022. Thankfully for the Vikings sake, the defense rises in clutch moments, but aside from those, it allows chunk yardage ad nauseam. In fact, the Vikings rank 31st in the NFL per 15+ yard plays allowed to opponents.

Smith missed 16 of 17 games last year with the Green Bay Packers because of a back injury.

Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. 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).