Which Vikings Have the Most to Prove in the Final 6 Games?
At 6-5, the Vikings are in a comfortable position to clinch a playoff spot later in the season, especially with the tiebreakers over other contending teams. That is quite surprising, considering the franchise appeared to be at a crossroads just a few weeks ago, sitting at 1-4 and entering Week 6 without the best player on the roster, Justin Jefferson.
Which Vikings Have the Most to Prove in the Final 6 Games?
The final stretch of the regular season will show if the Vikings are a decent team with chances at a playoff run or if their problems, especially the turnovers, continue to be a limiting factor. Just like the team has something to prove, some of its individuals also enter crucial games of their careers. The following five players are ranked from he has something to prove to his future will be decided in those six games.
5. Byron Murphy
Former Cardinals cornerback Byron Murphy was the big acquisition in the offseason to fix the unproven defensive back room. Brian Flores features heavy blitz packages and requires players in coverage who aren’t beaten within a split second. So far, the defense has been a pleasant surprise, and both the front and the backfield have simultaneously done a decent job.
However, the Vikings signed him to be a bonafide CB1 on the backend of the defense. At least his two-year $17,5 million contract implies that. He was not brought in to be just a guy. His performances have been subject to debate as he allowed Keenan Allen to have a career day in Week 3 and allowed a couple of Saints’ players to make fantastic plays with him in coverage.
Pro Football Focus ranks him 77th among 95 cornerbacks with at least 300 defensive snaps, although it should be noted that it’s not easy to play the position in Flores’ scheme. As the defense slowly transforms into an elite group, Murphy has to grow into a true top cornerback.
4. Greg Joseph
The Vikings have had problems at the kicker position since before some current players were born. Blair Walsh was great until he wasn’t, and Daniel Carlson started to be special once he joined a different team.
Greg Joseph had to compete with undrafted rookies in back-to-back training camps, but they barely made it to the preseason. Last year, he was statistically one of the worst kickers in the league but made up for it by hitting multiple clutch kicks throughout the season. In 2023, his field goal percentage ranks him in the bottom five of NFL kickers, and his two missed extra points are a tied league lead.
Unless Joseph gets more consistent, there’s a good chance the Vikings make a switch in the upcoming offseason.
3. D.J. Wonnum
Pass-rusher D.J. Wonnum is in the final year of his rookie contract. Designated starters Danielle Hunter and Marcus Davenport are also set to enter free agency. The Vikings, therefore, need to sign or draft a couple of starters, and Wonnum could be one of those.
In the first three seasons of his career, he was a pushover in the running game and lacked consistency in the pass rush, collecting the majority of his sacks as an unblocked rusher. However, something changed this year as he drastically improved against the run and has shown increased disruption in the passing game.
He now has six more games, presumably the majority as a starter without Davenport, to show that he should be one of the two starting outside linebackers in next year’s defense.
2. Ty Chandler
The running back position has been an enormous problem for the 2023 Vikings, as they cannot run the football. Dalvin Cook’s performances with the Jets show that it was the right decision to release him, but the replacement, Alexander Mattison, has caused some headaches as well. The veteran should be viewed as a longshot to stay in the starting role for another season.
More likely is the scenario that the purple team invests draft picks or free agency money into a new guy. But there’s a third scenario. What if dynamic sophomore Ty Chandler overtakes Mattison and proves he can be a starter in the NFL?
If the fan base made the call, Chandler would get every carry and be the RB1. He is faster than Mattison and has the ability to make big plays. On the flip side, his struggles in pass protection have hurt the Vikings. Improving in that area and making the right reads on offense could be his chance to earn a significant role for next season.
1. Joshua Dobbs
The season was over when Kirk Cousins got hurt. At least it felt like it. Teams rarely find a backup that can continue to win football games, and many teams just completely fall apart without their starter.
But the Vikings acquired Joshua Dobbs from the Cardinals, where he had started the season’s first eight games. A career backup and journeyman, Dobbs put some solid play on tape. Excellent scrambling ability met a good enough arm and wonderful football IQ. On the flip side, he made some mind-boggling mistakes.
After joining the Vikings, Dobbs became a nationwide sensation, winning a couple of games despite barely knowing what to do. His play is the same as it was in Arizona. Elite scrambling, some highlight plays, but also some awful reps. That poses the question, is he a starter or a backup?
Many second-stringers never get a chance like this. Starting on a playoff-caliber player is a rare chance for the Passtronaut. Dobbs has played 11 quarters as the Vikings’ quarterback, and he has a chance to stay in this role for 24 more.
His goal must be to show enough starting-caliber play to draw attention from another team, or the Vikings, so someone is willing to sign him as a starter. Denver signed Case Keenum to start for them after his 2017 heroics. That’s the blueprint for Dobbs. Limiting bad plays, using his skill set as a mobile passer to produce some Mahomes-esque highlights, and guiding his team into the postseason without falling apart are the required levels of play to get more opportunities in 2024.
Joshua Dobbs Is Aware of Your Memes
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