Where Are the Vikings Reinforcements?

Sep 24, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings head coach Kevin O'Connell takes the field before the game against the Los Angeles Chargers at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports.

Through the first six weeks of the 2023 NFL regular season, the Minnesota Vikings sit with a 2-4 record. They have not looked good, have been undisciplined, and are without a few key contributors. Sunday against the Chicago Bears, the recently acquired reinforcements may have been an underlying narrative.

Where Are the Vikings Reinforcements?

It wasn’t until a few weeks ago that second-year guard Ed Ingram looked like he needed time to learn from the bench. He was continually getting beat at the line of scrimmage, and Kirk Cousins was often feeling the impact of those miscues. Ingram had a mixed bag of performance as a rookie, and it didn’t appear he was as far along as all would have hoped this season.

Vikings Reinforcements
Dec 8, 2019; Houston, TX, USA; Denver Broncos offensive guard Dalton Risner (66) warms up before a game against the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports.

In response to Ingram’s struggles out of the gate, Minnesota waited a few weeks to watch things play out. Unfortunately, Ingram couldn’t separate himself entirely from the slow start, and a decision was made. Having already brought veteran guard Dalton Risner in for a visit, there was familiarity, and a deal was struck.

Now, a couple of weeks into his tenure with Minnesota, it took an Ezra Cleveland injury for Risner to see the field. Despite possessing strong abilities as a blocker and being a known commodity, Risner was kept on the sideline. It should be noted that Ingram had stepped up in the contest against the Kansas City Chiefs, but Risner’s lack of action seemed confusing.

At this point, how long the veteran Cleveland will be out remains to be seen. If he misses substantial time, then Risner becomes an easy plug-and-play option. Putting Risner at left guard would be a seamless transition as that is his traditional spot, but it also is notable that he wouldn’t have taken any snaps at the role he was brought in for.

Oct 1, 2023; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Cam Akers (31) runs after the catch defended by Carolina Panthers safety Xavier Woods (25) during the second half at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports.

Then there’s Cam Akers. Acquired from the Los Angeles Rams after a slow start for the Vikings running backs, he has flashed an ability that we have only seen from Alexander Mattison in short bursts. A better receiver than Minnesota’s starter, Akers gives a different look out of the backfield and can keep the defense honest.

Despite putting up a couple of strong performances lately, Mattison fell flat on Sunday. Averaging just over two yards per carry, Minnesota got nothing from its running game. Cousins was struggling to complete passes to his wide receivers, and the offense looked anemic as a whole. All that took place, yet Akers was given just a single touch out of the backfield while hauling in one reception.

Oct 15, 2023; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Minnesota Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell looks up at the scoreboard in the second half against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Jamie Sabau-USA TODAY Sports.

This isn’t a situation where Minnesota employs a prime version of Dalvin Cook. Even with Mattison going well, he certainly hasn’t looked the part of a bellcow back. With that in mind, continuing to cycle Akers in and have a multi-faceted look out of the backfield makes a good deal of sense. His lack of opportunities on Sunday was head-scratching, to say the least.

It doesn’t seem likely that the Vikings will completely flip the script on their season, so finding a way to incorporate some of the additional talent they have brought in makes a good deal of sense. We should be guaranteed to see more of Risner, but what Akers’ role looks like going forward is anyone’s guess.

Ted Schwerzler is a blogger from the Twin Cities that is focused on all things Minnesota Twins and Minnesota Vikings. He’s active on Twitter and writes weekly for Twins Daily. As a former college athlete and avid sports fan, covering our pro teams with a passion has always seemed like such a natural outlet.