Vikings Remain Mysterious about Dalton Risner

Even National Voices
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Coming off a 13-4 season, the Vikings entered 2023 with high expectations for themselves in the second year of Kevin O’Connell’s tenure. However, the franchise is 0-2 after a couple of games, and the decision-makers determined to acquire some extra talent to stay competitive. One of them was Dalton Risner, an offensive guard with position flexibility.

Vikings Remain Mysterious about Dalton Risner

Vikings Remain Mysterious About Dalton Risner
Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports.

Risner’s arrival was long awaited in Minnesota, as the offensive line has been problematic for years. Ed Ingram, the 2022 second-rounder out of LSU, had a disappointing rookie season, and his first two games in the current season continued that trend, although he had some nice reps against quality opponents mixed in.

Theories about Risner’s signing were everywhere on social media. Some expect him to be a backup and replace injured Oli Udoh. Others view him as a new left guard for Ezra Cleveland, who might be a tradable player in the final year of his contract, and the majority wants him to play in place of Ingram.

On Wednesday, he talked to the media for the first time since he signed with the Vikings, and he was asked about his potential role, but he stayed non-committal:

“I think my role for now is to come in and be a Minnesota Viking and help this team win games however that looks. So if the coaches tell me, ‘Hey, get that defense ready for this week to play the Chargers,’ that’s what I’m going to do.”

Risner also mentioned his versatility. He can play all over the line and step in wherever needed. He also has familiarity with his new offensive line coach, Chris Kuper, who was the assistant OL coach in Denver, where the guard played for four seasons.

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O’Connell was asked the same question about Risner’s role but also chose vague words:

“We’re going to play the best five-combination we can. Looking at the interior offensive line, you’d love to have Garrett Bradbury back as fast as possible. I thought Austin (Schlottmann) stepped in and, for the most part, to throw the football with the effectiveness we did, those guys Austin, Ezra (Cleveland), and Ed (Ingram) all did some really good things in the pass protection. We’re going to work through it and ultimately, with that depth now you feel much more comfortable than you would have. We’ll see how it all shakes out but let Dalton get up to speed and continue to pour into Ezra and Ed all those interior guys.”

Neither of the two guys said anything that would give us a hint about Risner’s role going forward, so all we can do is speculate. He is a solid pass-protector, and his statistics easily clear Ingram’s, for whatever that is worth. However, run blocking is certainly a weakness of his. Quarterback Kirk Cousins would certainly be happy to go the route that protects him best after taking a beating for years.

Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports.

Risner’s two most sensible options are to be a backup until a change is needed because of injury or bad performance or to replace sophomore Ingram in the starting unit once he is up to speed with the playbook and in football shape.

It is still a total mystery if the new guy in the room will start on Sunday or if he is a backup waiting for struggles up front to replace someone and will continue to be closely monitored. One thing is sure: the fans have already lost their patience, and they will surely call for Risner in case of problems across the line.

Besides adding the lineman, GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah traded for Cam Akers, a running back from the Los Angeles Rams. The duo could step onto the field in the purple jerseys for the first time on Sunday when the Vikings face the 0-2 Chargers in a virtual playoff game, as falling to 0-3 is a huge burden.

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