Another Big Loss — Vikings Place Defender on IR

How Crazy Was
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Injuries have been a much more significant issue than in the last couple of seasons for the Minnesota Vikings. Justin Jefferson has missed the last five games, and while returning to the field on Sunday is possible, it’s not guaranteed. Kirk Cousins and Cam Akers are both on IR after rupturing their Achilles tendon, and Marcus Davenport has been laboring his second significant ankle injury.

Another Big Loss — Vikings Place Defender on IR

The defensive turnaround under the guidance of defensive coordinator Brian Flores has been fun to watch. After some struggles in the season’s first three games, the group has elevated its play and the Vikes field a decent defense for the first time in years.

Another Big Loss--Vikings Place Defender on Injured Reserve
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A big reason for that success is linebacker Joran Hicks whose struggles from last season haven’t continued in 2023. Unfortunately for him and the Vikings, the team announced that the veteran will miss at least four games as he was placed on IR.

He had to undergo a procedure on his lower leg to combat the compartment syndrome following a shin contusion suffered on Sunday in the contest against the Saints. Missing the mandatory four games, his earliest possible return is Week 16 against the Detroit Lions, a potentially huge matchup to defend the NFC North.

Flores opened his Tuesday presser talking about his defensive captain:

Obviously a big loss to us as a team and defensively as a captain, as a leader on the team. I went to the hospital yesterday and saw him. He’s in good spirits. Definitely a big loss to us. I think he’s playing at a Pro Bowl level, so just as a team, we’ve got to rally around some of our younger players and as a group, take care of his many responsibilities within the defense from green dot communication to what he does in our nickel packages, our dime packages, really all of our packages.

Entering the offseason, it was in doubt if Hicks would return after a bad 2022 season. He simply wasn’t a good fit in Ed Donatell’s defensive system. He agreed to take a pay cut, and the Vikings kept him around for his age-31 season.

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With Flores calling the shots, he has experienced a career renaissance, logging a team-high 87 total tackles and forcing one fumble. Hicks has recovered a couple of fumbles and an interception, resulting in one touchdown.

All season, Vikings coaches and teammates praised his leadership and ability to call the plays and audibles on the field, ensuring the guys around him are in the right spots. In his absence, there will be a void, and veterans Harrison Smith, Danielle Hunter, and Harrison Phillips perhaps have a more prominent role from a communication perspective. Head coach Kevin O’Connell mentioned that rookie Ivan Pace will take over the green dot duties and will receive the play calls from Flores.

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That will result in Pace playing most snaps on defense, with Josh Metellus continuing to be on the field for most of the game. New arrival Anthony Barr has a similar skill set, especially the physical ability, to take over some of his responsibilities around the line of scrimmage once he gets up to speed. They even share a weakness, the pass coverage. Troy Dye and Brian Asamoah could also play some extra snaps on defense.

Hicks has enjoyed an excellent season. The team’s top linebacker has earned a top-20 grade among linebackers from PFF. The Vikings have been proving all season that they will not feel sorry for themselves. They will continue to pursue victories every Sunday, regardless of the injuries and overall circumstances. It will be a next-man-up mentality, although they might miss his leadership on the field.

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