3 Vikings Players to Watch vs. Lions — Week 3 

Vikings Starter Hits the Shelf Indefinitely
Jun 8, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings corner back Cameron Dantzler. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

It wasn’t a very good outing for my Week 2 Vikings players to watch, as Dalvin Cook failed to have a meaningful impact on the game. Harrison Phillips and Dalvin Tomlinson battled in vain on the defensive line.

Meanwhile, Lewis Cine only played one defensive snap despite Harrison Smith leaving the field with a concussion. The Vikings decided to bring in Josh Mettelus to replace Smith instead. Whether that was because Cine was just returning from injury and was being eased into things remains to be seen.

Jalen Reagor had the best day of the five, returning to his old patch in Philadelphia. Having only just arrived in Minnesota via trade from the Eagles, Reagor is being eased into the Vikings offense. It was punt return duties only against the Packers, but he got involved in the offense on Monday night playing in 10 offensive snaps. His first touch of the football came from a jet sweep that went for 17 yards — a play I would expect the Vikings to repeat after that kind of success. He also had two targets in the passing game, catching one for seven yards.

Onward to this week and my 3 Vikings players to watch vs. Lions.

Kirk Cousins

Vikings MNF Struggles on the Road Are Not Done
Sep 19, 2022; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports.

Kirk Cousins had one of those games that causes him to have a controversial reputation. It was a horrible performance.

You can point to Irv Smith’s dropped catch, Justin Jefferson at fault for the first interception, the poor defensive display in the first half, and a poor day at the office for the coaching staff, but the fact is Cousins is experienced and talented enough to be the man to provide the spark for his team and carry them in adversity.

That didn’t happen.

Instead, we saw the Cousins who gets rattled and unravels under pressure. Unfortunately, that seems to occur on primetime television so often, which once again led to the social media vultures jumping at the chance to poke fun at him.

Cousins will look to bounce back against the Lions. Don’t be surprised to see an explosive start from the Vikings offense as they try to make an early statement of intent. Jefferson also had a rocky night against the Eagles and will be eager to bounce back with a big game. Along with the need for more involvement for Adam Thielen, expect Kevin O’Connell to have some big plays dialed up for those two early to try and get his offense going.

Brian O’Neill

Sep 19, 2021; Glendale, Arizona, USA; Minnesota Vikings tackle Brian O’Neill. Mandatory Credit: Billy Hardiman-USA TODAY Sports

It promises to be a difficult game for the Vikings offensive line on Sunday. One thing visible from the Lions defense this season is that they bring the heat. There is a lot to like about their defense, even if the statistics don’t show it right now.

They are physical, aggressive, and get after the quarterback. As the veteran leader of the offensive line and the man lined up opposite Aidan Hutchinson for most of the game, the Vikings need Brian O’Neill to lead from the front and have a big game.

There is some good news on the injury report, where Hutchinson and John Cominsky (who has impressed with his pass-rush from the interior) both logged Did Not Practice on the first two days of practice with thigh and wrist injuries, respectively. After a breakout three-sack performance last week, if Hutchinson isn’t able to play, that would be a massive boost for the Vikings. There have been reports of him working the bags “a little,” and I expect him to suit up on Sunday.

Cameron Dantzler

Ed Donatell Explains Cameron Dantzler's Faux Benching
Sep 19, 2022; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Minnesota Vikings cornerback Cameron Dantzler Sr. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports.

Jared Goff might not be the most exciting quarterback in the NFL, but with his weapons, the Lions have one of the most potent offenses in the league. Headlined by Amon-Ra St. Brown and D’Andre Swift but with plenty of capable backups, St. Brown vs. the Vikings secondary is a major cause for concern.

Dating back to a breakout game in Week 13 of last season at US Bank Stadium, St. Brown has gone on a run of eight games with at least eight catches — catapulting his name into the conversation of top-tier wide receivers. He ended that game in Minnesota by catching the winning touchdown where Cameron Dantzler Sr. was caught too deep in the end zone and was unable to come up and make a play on St. Brown before he made the score.

Dantzler made a mistake on Monday night that led to a 53-yard touchdown for Eagles receiver Quez Watkins. The mistake subsequently saw Dantzler benched for rookie Akayleb Evans. He will be back as the starting cornerback on Sunday, with defensive coordinator Ed Donatell saying the mistake had been corrected and professing confidence in the third-year cornerback. The Vikings will need him confident and at his best. Whether he has to cover St. Brown, DJ Chark, or Josh Reynolds, it won’t be an easy task.

One player he won’t have to cover is Jameson Williams, the player that the Lions traded up for in the 1st round of this year’s draft with the Vikings. Williams is on injured reserve, not yet recovered from an ACL tear while playing for Alabama in college. So he won’t be haunting the Vikings for that decision. Not yet, anyway.