Recently Benched Viking Will Be Back on the Field on Sunday

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A devastating game in Week 16 took the playoff hopes out of Minnesota’s control as now either the Rams or the Seahawks have to drop a game, in addition to the Vikings winning out, to open the door for the postseason. But that loss was overshadowed by T.J. Hockenson’s severe knee injury. He will miss the remainder of the season just like defender D.J. Wonnum, while Mekhi Blackmon and Jordan Addison suffered short-term bothers.

Recently Benched Viking Will Be Back on the Field on Sunday

Addison and Blackmon missed practice on Wednesday, putting their availability in the upcoming divisional clash versus the Green Bay Packers in question. Also missing practice was cornerback Byron Murphy, so the depth in the defensive backfield will be tested.

Recently Benched Viking Will Be Back on the Field on Sunday
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For that reason, one guy who had a brief stint in Brian Flores’ doghouse will return to the lineup. In the defeat against the Lions, Flores benched sophomore Akayleb Evans, who perhaps had his worst game as a professional football player, including a viral play in which he failed to tackle running back Jahmyr Gibbs.

He logged a PFF grade of 46.8, one of his lowest of the season. Because Murphy missed the game and Blackmon exited the contest with a shoulder injury, the Vikes had to rely on practice squad player Joejuan Williams and 2022 second-rounder Andrew Booth.

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Flores emphasized on Wednesday that it was not a real benching but much more an attempt to give his struggling defensive unit a spark by playing someone else, although that sounds like a coach trying to control the damage to get the spotlight off of his young player.

He’ll be out there (on Sunday), there is no question about it. Akayleb has done a lot of good things for us this season but we all have moments and he’ll bounce back. Akayleb is a confident kid, in that moment, it was really more about the group and the unit and just trying to get a different spark. But look, he’s a confident kid, he’s obviously played well over the course of the season, we have a lot of confidence in him and he’ll be back out there.

Brian Flores

Evans has played well for the most part, earning the coaching staff’s trust as he has played 754 defensive snaps throughout the 2023 campaign. He missed a couple of games with a calf injury and battled some other issues. Regardless of his occasional struggles, he has done a wonderful job on the opposite side of CB1 Murphy, and the two have been forming a much better duo than anyone expected.

Be Slept
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The cornerback was a 2022 fourth-round selection the Vikings traded up for. General manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah was excited when he picked him, mentioning that he watched his college tape at night.

He then showed flashes in his rookie season but missed the majority of that because of a multitude of concussions. For his playing career but also his life outside of football, it was crucial to improve his tackling form to keep his head out of the play, and he has managed to do that for the most part.

Regardless of the availability of Murphy and Blackmon, Evans should return to the starting lineup and be one of the main defenders trying to stop Jordan Love and his arsenal of young receivers.

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The 24-year-old has already logged 58 tackles, forced three forced fumbles, and an interception. Making game-changing plays, especially with his fabulous tackling skills, has been his specialty, but he has played well in coverage. He will play his 24th career game on Sunday.

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