Popular Vikings Rookie Could See Action in Coming Weeks

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Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson was placed on injured reserve last week, and seven days later, starting outside linebacker Marcus Davenport followed suit.

Popular Vikings Rookie Could See Action in Coming Weeks

Like Jefferson, Davenport will miss at least four games and be eligible to return shortly before Thanksgiving.

What does this mean? Simple — the Vikings defense, which just found its footing in the last three weeks, will be without one of its top two pass rushers and search the roster for a replacement to Davenport’s productivity.

And while it may not happen immediately, one option could eventually be rookie defender Andre Carter.

Vikings Rookie Could See
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Of course, outside linebacker D.J. Wonnum has produced game-changing plays in the last few weeks, so right away, Wonnum is likely to slide into the starting lineup. Yet, Wonnum does not have a history of consistency, especially as a starter, and if he reverts to his typical tendencies, Minnesota’s coaching staff might mix and match other options.

Carter is one of the other options.

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Carter has logged 17 defensive snaps in two Vikings games this season versus the Los Angeles Chargers and at the Carolina Panthers. Minnesota is at least open to exploring his rookie skillset in the defense, and with Davenport on the shelf, Carter’s role could be increased.

Outside of Danielle Hunter — who leads the NFL in sacks and tackles for loss — the Vikings pass rush has floundered without Davenport. Early on, the aforementioned Wonnum and Patrick Jones struggled to pressure opposing quarterbacks, making the pass rush quite blah against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Philadelphia Eagles, and Los Angeles Chargers.

Why 1 Unsung
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There is no room for an underwhelming pass rush in Week 7 and beyond, as the Vikings own a 2-4 record and require close-to-perfect football in the next few weeks to turn the season around. Defensive coordinator Brian Flores loves to blitz — the Vikings blitz more than any team in the NFL, by a mile — but it doesn’t much matter if Hunter’s outside linebacker teammate isn’t creating organic pressure.

Following the 2023 NFL Draft, Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah sprinted to the undrafted free-agent wire, capturing 15 players for the 90-man summer roster. Carter was unearthed among that colossal list of newcomers and later made the regular roster.

Vikings to Showcase
Minnesota Vikings Defensive Coordinator Brian Flores addressed the media from the TCO Performance Center. Flores was hired in February 2023 to take over for Ed Donatel after Minnesota finished 30th in points allowed.

Carter II was projected as a 4th- or 5th-Round prospect last April, akin to his teammate Ivan Pace Jr., but both men missed out on a formal draft pick. Instead, they joined the Vikings as UDFAs. The consensus on Carter II’s lack of draft attention was a bit mysterious, but most believe his size — or perceived lankiness — discouraged general managers from taking the plunge. His strength may need enhancement as an NFL pass rusher, although Army moved Carter II all over the defense.

Carter also garnered attention on Bruce Feldman’s famous Freak List heading into the draft. Feldman wrote about Carter II, “What a gem Army found at Connecticut’s Cheshire Academy in Carter, at the time a two-star tight end prospect. Now a 6-7, 260-pound senior with a 6-10 wingspan, Carter piled up 18.5 TFLs, 15.5 sacks and four forced fumbles in 2021.”

“Carter’s length is only more amazing when factoring in that he also blazed a 4.2 in his pro agility test this offseason. Army coaches say that when Carter’s doing change of direction work in the summer, he finishes in the top three with their skill guys. They also say his reaction time and processing speed is unmatched,” he concluded.

With Davenport out for at least a month, Carter’s freakish tendencies may actually be utilized on Sundays.

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).

All statistics provided by Pro Football Reference / Stathead; all contractual information provided by OverTheCap.com.