One Vikings Playmaker Can’t Escape Injured Reserve

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For the most part this summer, the Minnesota Vikings have dodged the injury bug to keynote players that has otherwise affected other NFL teams.

One Vikings Playmaker Can’t Escape Injured Reserve

But the slate isn’t totally clean for Minnesota, a club hoping to win back-to-back NFC North titles for the first time since 2008-2009. The Vikings placed running back and kick returner Kene Nwangwu on injured reserve Wednesday, meaning the third-year playmaker will miss at least the first four regular season games of 2023.

Escape Injured
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The Vikings social media account tweeted the news and elaborated on corresponding roster transactions involving two newcomers, “The Vikings have agreed to terms with RB Myles Gaskin and OL David Quessenberry. RB Kene Nwangwu has been placed on IR and WR Jalen Reagor has been waived.”

Without Nwangwu, who was rarely utilized on offense in 2022, the Vikings will lean on RBs Alexander Mattison, Ty Chandler, and the new addition Gaskin. Chandler, too, is expected to handle kick-returning responsibilities in Nwangwu’s stead.

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When Minnesota unveiled an initial preseason depth chart four weeks ago, Nwangwu was listed as the RB2 behind Mattison, piquing fans’ interest because he could’ve been on tap for more touches in the team’s offense. We shall see if that is the plan when he returns later this season.

Vikings faithful longed for Nwangwu’s inclusion in the team’s offense last year — because of his speed — but the wish was not granted. The Iowa State alumnus touched the ball 11 times on offense for 35 yards from scrimmage, not exactly a productive resume as a second-year speedster.

Roster Spot Could Change
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When he does return, he may actually see increased action in the offense, especially as the Vikings have vowed to run the ball more in 2023. Minnesota ranked third least in rushing via playcalling percentage a season ago, creating a point of emphasis this offseason for change in September. Run-blocking tight end Josh Oliver joined the club in free agency, DeWayne McBride (now a practice squad member) was selected in Round 7 of April’s draft, and a handful of Vikings have mentioned running the rock more in interviews.

Minnesota scooped Nwangwu out of the 4th Round of the 2021 NFL Draft, and he’s returned three kickoffs for touchdowns in two years. His kick return touchdown on Thanksgiving night versus the New England Patriots last year was a game-saver for Minnesota. The Vikings forced no turnovers against Bill Belichick’s team, curiously couldn’t stop quarterback Mac Jones — he looked like Tom Brady for a night — leaving Nwangwu’s heroics as the hinge that cracked the game.

Is Kene
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In June, CBS Sports predicted an enhanced role for Nwangwu in the Vikings offense this season, “Nwangwu is a dynamic kickoff returner but will compete for a larger role as a running back after the release of Dalvin Cook. Nwangwu enters camp battling Ty Chandler and DeWayne McBride for snaps behind starter Alexander Mattison. It’s possible the backfield could be more of a committee, one in which Nwangwu’s speed could afford him a significant role.”

Other Vikings players on IR? Abraham Beauplan (ILB), Tay Gowan (CB), Malik Knowles (WR), William Kwenkeu (ILB), and James Lynch (DT). Offensive guard Chris Reed is on the team’s non-football-injury list.

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).

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