The Comeback of a Speedy Viking Comes Closer

Sep 14, 2023; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Jalen Nailor (83) against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports.

The 4-4 Minnesota Vikings will face the 4-4 Atlanta Falcons in Sunday’s Week 9 contest. Both teams are currently in playoff position, but one will take a huge hit. Atlanta is at the top of the NFC South, while the Vikings are a couple of games back of the Lions but would get a wild card if the season ended today.

The Comeback of a Speedy Viking Comes Closer

comeback of a speedy
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The main topic in Minnesota has been Kirk Cousins’ unfortunate injury suffered against Green Bay. He will miss the remainder of the season after pulling his team out of a 1-4 hole with three straight wins. Rookie Jaren Hall will start in his place, with the new acquisition Joshua Dobbs getting ready to back him up and possibly take over his spot in the near future. The Vikings have been uncommitted long-term and approach the situation week-by-week.

Hall will enter a lineup with playmakers everywhere, although Justin Jefferson is not yet eligible to return from IR. Jordan Addison and T.J. Hockenson have shined in his absence, veteran K.J. Osborn had his season breakout game in Lambeau Field, and punt returner Brandon Powell made some plays. But no quarterback, especially a backup, has ever complained about having too many weapons. The good news is that one more could be available on Sunday.

Jalen Nailor has logged his first full practice on Wednesday. The Vikings only held a walkthrough practice, but Nailor would’ve been full-go if they had a normal session. He was sent to IR after the first two games of the season with a hamstring injury. The former Michigan State standout almost exclusively played on special teams in those two contests. The main reason for that was his extended absence from training camp because of a different injury.

WR Returns
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Minnesota opened his 21-day practice window a couple of weeks ago, and their speedy wideout logged six straight limited practices before his return to full capacity on Wednesday. The Vikings enter the final week of the 21-day window to activate him, and it would be astounding if they wouldn’t, as he is apparently healthy.

Nailor had a breakout game last year against the Packers in which he caught three passes for 89 yards and a touchdown. That playmaking ability as a deep threat could help the Vikings create splash plays. Without Cousins, the offense could take a dip in consistency, and it might be hard to move the ball on long drives. This is where splash plays are important.

Injuries have played a big role in Nailor’s season after shining on the first day of training camp and during OTAs. He got usurped by Addison and couldn’t challenge Osborn for a larger role. Nailor also struggled in college with injuries, logging only 26 games in four seasons at Michigan State but still firing up 1,454 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns while adding 163 rushing yards and an additional score.

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Nailor’s return will also boost the special teams unit, as he is one of the gunners on punt coverage. He is the guy who is supposed to tackle the punter right after the catch, something his speed allows him to do.

Nailor, 24, will get his opportunity to help the Vikings win sooner rather than later. Offensive guard Chris Reed also returned to practice. He was put on the non-football injury list prior to training camp and has been out since. Quarterback Nick Mullens and star receiver Jefferson are eligible to return to practice next week.

Janik Eckardt is a football fan who likes numbers and stats. The Vikings became his favorite team despite their quarterback at the time, Christian Ponder. He is a walking soccer encyclopedia, loves watching sitcoms, and Classic rock is his music genre of choice. Follow him on Twitter if you like the Vikings: @JanikEckardt