The Sweet & Sour Night for Vikings TE

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Sep 19, 2022; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Minnesota Vikings tight end Irv Smith Jr. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports.

The Minnesota Vikings lost to the Philadelphia Eagles 23-7 on Monday, knotting their record at 1-1 for the 2022 season with a non-daunting schedule on the docket for the next six weeks.

Aside from special teams, little went right for the Vikings at Philadelphia, while tight end Irv Smith encountered a sweet and sour night. Smith experienced more action than Week 1 against the Green Bay Packers, but the output was a mixed bag.

Incidentally, Smith is in a contract year, so every game matters immensely. His performance through two weeks, plus the remaining 15 games, will determine if he remains with the Vikings in 2023 and at what pricepoint.

The Sweet

Irv Smith Jr.
Irv Smith Jr.

Versus Green Bay to start the season, Johnny Mundt was showcased at the Vikings TE1, an unexpected development because Smith is a 2nd-Round draft talent that everyone believes will eventually achieve a “breakout season.” In Week 1, Mundt was on the field for 40 Vikings offensive snaps, whereas Smith saw the field 19 times. Perhaps Minnesota preferred working Smith into the system gingerly as he recovered from a summer thumb injury.

On Monday Night Football, Smith’s snap count spiked, surpassing Mundt’s total by six. Smith played 34 snaps to Mundt’s 28. It was more of an “Irv Smith game,” akin to what fans expected in Week 1.

Accordingly, Smith contributed to the offense at a greater clip. He registered 5 receptions on 8 targets for 36 yards. That’s the biggest takeaway as “sweet” for Smith — attention in the offense.

He also scored a touchdown, the Vikings only score [at all] in the game.

The Sour

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Aug 20, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings tight end Irv Smith Jr. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

Regrettably for Smith — and the Vikings — the 24-year-old dropped a would-be touchdown from Kirk Cousins at a crucial spot in the 2nd Quarter. It seemed the Vikings needed to trade haymakers with Philadelphia based on the way Minnesota’s defense was faring, but Smith did not land the uppercut on the Eagles defense. In fact, the drop was mind-boggling.

It was an “I’m back” moment desperately needed by Smith after missing all of the 2021 season. Vikings fans, national NFL heads, and fantasy football managers have long foreshadowed Smith’s rise to prominence. But, to date, injuries and target-load shares have prevented true TE1 duty for the Alabama alumnus.

And for the Vikings-Eagles game, Minnesota never recovered from the drop illustrated above, even though the Vikings defense and special teams provided a few opportunities in the 2nd Half.

Smith’s stock is low after the Week 2 mishap, but it doesn’t have to be. The Vikings take on a clumsy Detroit Lions defense in four days, meaning Smith could theoretically bounce back with a vengeance. Moreover, the Lions offense is suddenly high-powered, and the two NFC North foes could embark on a shootout.

The Vikings are favored by a touchdown to defeat the Lions in Week 3.

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).