Vikings Need Their Starters Back ASAP

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Injuries are always a problem, and all 32 NFL teams suffer from them. Some absent players can be compensated while others are felt on gameday. The Vikings have played games without Christian Darrisaw, Kirk Cousins, and Justin Jefferson, perhaps their three best and most important players. Still, at 6-5, they are in a decent spot to compete for the playoffs and the division.

Vikings Need Their Starters Back ASAP

Darrisaw has returned while quarterback Cousins is out for the season. Joshua Dobbs has managed to keep the ship afloat and the team competitive. Defenders Jordan Hicks and Marcus Davenport are on IR. Hicks was a big part of the defensive success, something Davenport was expected to be, but he hasn’t managed to stay healthy. Ivan Pace and D.J. Wonnum stepped in.

Vikings Need Their Starters Back as Soon as Possible
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Another defender missed the last game. Cornerback Akayleb Evans had to pass because of a calf injury. Rookie Mekhi Blackmon took his spot after some solid performances in previous weeks. While Blackmon didn’t have a disastrous day with blown coverage all over the place, he still got picked on by quarterback Russell Wilson on some plays.

According to Pro Football Focus, the USC alumnus allowed six catches on six targets for 69 yards, and he lost the jump ball against Courtland Sutton on the game-winning score. The biggest knock on him coming out of college was his size, which showed up in that play.

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Usual starter Evans has become a reliable cornerback in his second season, showing up big in coverage and run support, and he has already forced three fumbles. He is listed at 6’2″ and 198 pounds and would’ve perhaps matched up better with a big receiver like Sutton.

Evans was limited on Thursday, and his status for Monday’s divisional matchup with the Chicago Bears is in question.

The other obvious player the Vikes missed was star wideout Jefferson. The 24-year-old is one of the most dynamic receivers in the NFL and is an elite go-to target in clutch situations. One of those situations arrived in Denver when the Vikings were down one point and had 63 seconds to get into field goal range.

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Dobbs struggled to find his playmakers, and the drive ended in a turnover on downs. Jordan Addison has been phenomenal during Jefferson’s absence, but he had a hard time against a great secondary, and so did K.J. Osborn. The hero from the previous game, tight end T.J. Hockenson, failed to make a play and lost his rep to Justin Simmons twice on that drive.

When Jefferson is on the field, these guys either have more room to operate as the focus is on him, or he is one-on-one, making him the obvious target. Of course, he is also a potential outlet when he is double-teamed. When the game was on the line, it showed that Jefferson wasn’t in the lineup.

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The All-Pro was a limited participant on Thursday, just like in the last two weeks. Everyone involved, the athlete and the coaching staff, have repeatedly stated that he doesn’t return until he is 100%, so a return after the bye week shouldn’t be ruled out. That would result in him missing Monday’s game, but he would be available for the final five games.

The NFL has a next-man-up mentality, but at some point, it is just too much to overcome. Minnesota has been phenomenal at replacing absent starters, but they desperately need some of their guys back.

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