Vikings Playmaker Healthy in Time for Opener

John Madden Coming to U.S. Bank Stadium on Thanksgiving
Sep 25, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings fans react during the first quarter against the Detroit Lions at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

The Minnesota Vikings revealed the first injury report of the 2023 season on Wednesday, and the document was close to empty.

Not bad.

Vikings Playmaker Healthy in Time for Opener

Linebacker Troy Dye lived on the list with an elbow injury but was a full practice participant on Wednesday. Generally speaking, the injury report was as close to as clean as possible. Too, Dye is expected to play this Sunday versus the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Meanwhile, one Vikings playmaker is back to full health after missing multiple weeks — wide receiver Jalen Nailor.

Playmaker Healthy
Nov 24, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Jalen Nailor (83) celebrates after making a stop against the New England Patriots during the fourth quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

Star Tribune‘s Andrew Krammer tweeted Wednesday, one day before the NFL’s regular season kicks off with the Detroit Lions at the Kansas City Chiefs, “WR Jalen Nailor is recovered from the calf injury that sidelined him for three weeks, and could be the No. 4 option as someone who plays split end, slot and flanker.”

Nailor, indeed, is listed as the team’s WR4 and should be on the field Sunday. He might even fetch a few targets in the passing game.

Oct 2, 2022; London, United Kingdom; New Orleans Saints wide receiver Chris Olave (left) and Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Jalen Nailor (right) pose after exchanging jerseys during an NFL International Series game at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. The Vikings defeated the Saints 28-25. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports.

His recent injury was never a source of grave concern, but his return with the regular season four days away is a positive development. Heading into the 2022 NFL Draft, Minnesota’s wide receiver coach Keenan McCardell reportedly ‘pounded the table’ for Nailor. At Michigan State in 2021, Nailor tallied 695 receiving yards and six touchdowns.

Nicknamed Speedy, the young playmaker ran a 4.5 forty-yard dash at the 2022 NFL Combine and placed in the Top 10 among receivers in several drills at the event. On any given Sunday, he’s around the third fastest player on the Vikings roster behind Ty Chandler (RB) and Kene Nwangwu (RB) — or, with Nwangwu on Injured Reserve, the second-fastest.

'Rookie Watch' in Week 18
Dec 17, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Indianapolis Colts safety Trevor Denbow (43) breaks up a fake punt pass attempt to Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Jalen Nailor. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

Nailor tallied 9 receptions for 179 yards and a touchdown in his rookie campaign, along with some flashy clips to satiate 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 this season.

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 WR4 on an every-week basis. He laid the blueprint down the stretch of 2022.

Jan 1, 2023; Green Bay, Wisconsin, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Jalen Nailor (83) rushes for a touchdown as Green Bay Packers cornerback Corey Ballentine (35) defends during the fourth quarter at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports.

Nailor will audition for the WR3 job this year — for 2024. WR2 K.J. Osborn is in a contract year, and if he departs in free agency next March, rookie Jordan Addison would presumably climb to WR2, with Nailor eyeing the third wide receiver role.

The Michigan State alumnus turned 24 in March.

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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