It’s Official for 2 Injured Vikings
The Minnesota Vikings have a 27% chance of reaching the postseason after losing to the Detroit Lions in Week 16 and must win its next two games while hoping the Los Angeles Rams and Seattle Seahawks lose a single game — just one — between them.
It’s Official for 2 Injured Vikings
The task isn’t easy, and many of the team’s loyalists wonder: If they couldn’t beat the Bengals or Lions, can they really beat the Packers and Lions to slip into the playoffs?
Well, to win the final two games and get some help from Los Angeles or Seattle, the Vikings will forge ahead without two key players. The club made it official Wednesday with IR designations.
T.J. Hockenson (TE)
Hockenson was drilled in the knee after a momentous completion Sunday afternoon, and in the immediate aftermath, Vikings fans feared the worst. Well, the sad news was confirmed on Tuesday as Hockenson will miss the rest of the season with a torn ACL and MCL. He hit IR on Wednesday.
He was on the cusp of becoming the Vikings’ first 1,000+ yard tight end in 42 years before the knee injury. Joe Senser achieved the mark in 1981, and Hockenson will fall 40 yards short. When wide receiver Justin Jefferson was injured for seven games in October and November, Hockenson was often the cement that held the offense together.
With the two-time Pro Bowler on the shelf, Minnesota will turn to TE2 Josh Oliver, who grabbed a noteworthy free-agent contract during free agency nine months ago.
Hockenson signed a four-year, $66 million extension in August, nominating the Iowa alumnus as the highest-paid TE in NFL history. That deal could be topped this offseason, but for now, Hockenson is the richest of them all at his position.
Now, fans wait and wonder if Hockenson will be ready for 2024, which isn’t guaranteed — at all — for Week 1.
D.J. Wonnum (OLB)
A terrible twist of fate, Wonnum was undergoing a career season in Minnesota, mere months before his first trip to free agency. But against the Lions — a deadly game in retrospect — Wonnum partially tore his quad and was placed on injured reserve.
The future is now unclear for Wonnum, who could return to the Vikings for a second contract or hope a free-agent suitor team takes the plunge despite the injury. Wonnum majorly stepped up in the last two months, fulfilling a starter’s role when Marcus Davenport hit IR with a high ankle sprain. No one has really heard from Davenport since.
Thankfully, though, the Davenport injury “didn’t really matter” because of Wonnum’s production. His top moment of 2023 occurred at the Carolina Panthers, scoring a season-saving touchdown to help chip off Bryce Young and friends.
Minnesota owned an 0-3 record at that moment and was trending toward 0-4. But the Wonnum scoop-and-score changed everything.
This season, the 26-year-old logged 62 tackles and 8 sacks, morphing into an adept run-stuffer as well after years of pass-rusher-only labels. Pro Football Focus assigned a 68.6 run defense grade for Wonnum, up from 39.1 in 2021.
We shall see if Year No. 5 for Wonnum takes place in Minnesota.
Without Wonnum, the Vikings will lean heavily on Danielle Hunter, Patrick Jones, and rookie Andre Carter.
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).