Vikings Could Really Use Last Year’s Rookie on MNF

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
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The Minnesota Vikings need many favorable events for a Monday Night Football triumph over the San Francisco 49ers.

San Francisco lost eight days ago to the Cleveland Browns because of a missed and aspirant game-winning field goal off the toes of rookie kicker Jake Moody, ending the 49ers undefeated streak and probably motivating the group even more.

Vikings Could Really Use Last Year’s Rookie on MNF

They’ll enter U.S. Bank Stadium on Monday night, looking for a win in a city that has not granted them any in 31 years. The 49ers last toppled the Vikings in Minnesota during the 1992 season, losing six straight at the Metrodome and U.S. Bank Stadium.

And for the Vikings to keep their end of the bargain alive, close to everything must go right, as the 49ers aren’t a team heavy on gaffes. One way to do it for Minnesota would be utilizing last year’s rookie, Jalen Nailor.

Could Really Use Last
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On offense, Minnesota is already without the services of Justin Jefferson and Ezra Cleveland; Jefferson will miss at least three more games, including the San Francisco matchup, while Cleveland is week-to-week. A productive Nailor would help ease the pain of Jefferson’s absence.

Jefferson was injured 15 days ago at U.S. Bank Stadium against the Kansas City Chiefs, a hamstring ailment that landed the reigning Offensive Player of the Year on injured reserve. His recovery is trending the right way, with all signs pointing toward a return on November 12th versus the New Orleans Saints.

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Yet, that’s three games away, and for a team owning a 2-4 record and a schedule with the NFL’s best team afoot on Monday Night Football, an impact for Nailor would be helpful.

Nailor tallied 9 receptions for 179 yards and a touchdown in his rookie campaign, along with some flashy clips to whet fans’ appetites for the offseason. Incidentally, Nailor did most of his damage in “garbage time” and will hope to repeat the production  and then some  in the middle of games at some point in 2023.

WR Returns
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In that limited sample, Nailor showed the gumption to thrive at the NFL level, and it will be up to him to determine if he’s got the grit for WR3 or WR4 on an every week basis. He laid the blueprint down the stretch of 2022.

Heading into the 2022 NFL Draft, Minnesota’s wide receiver coach Keenan McCardell reportedly “pounded the table” for Nailor. At Michigan State in 2021, he tallied 695 receiving yards and six touchdowns. Nicknamed Speedy, the young playmaker has run a 4.39 forty-yard dash in the past, although he registered a 4.5-mark at the 2022 NFL Combine.

Explained: The 7 Big Takeaways from Vikings Win over NE
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Nailor has the speed — and the opportunity — to do the thing against San Francisco.

However, he’s questionable on the Vikings injury report. Minnesota designated the young playmaker to return from injured reserve this week after a hamstring injury a month ago, not too different from Jefferson’s.

If Nailor is unavailable, the Vikings will lean on rookie Jordan Addison and tight end T.J. Hockenson, plus pass-catchers K.J. Osborn, Brandon Powell, and N’Keal Harry.

The time is ripe for Nailor to put a thumbprint on the 2023 season if he can wiggle off the injury report.

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 Sal Spice. His Vikings obsession dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ Basset Hounds, and The Doors (the band).

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