There Is Good News on Injury Front beyond Justin Jefferson’s Return

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Opinions differentiate about the best timing for a bye week. Having theirs late in the season might be a blessing for the Minnesota Vikings. Justin Jefferson finally returns to the field after missing seven games, and some of his teammates got healthy for the final stretch of the regular season and potential playoff appearances.

There Is Good News on Injury Front beyond Justin Jefferson’s Return

In addition to the star receiver, cornerback Akayleb Evans will make his comeback on Sunday after a calf injury kept him out of the previous two contests. He was a full participant in Wednesday’s practice.

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Evans’ return comes at a perfect time as the Las Vegas Raiders employ one of the league’s best receivers, the six-time Pro Bowler and three-time first-team All-Pro Davante Adams. Vikings fans remember Adams as a member of the Green Bay Packers, where he haunted the Vikings twice a year as Aaron Rodgers’ favorite target.

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The wideout had a slower stretch in the middle of the season but has exploded in the last three games with at least five catches and 73 yards in each matchup. He is slowly starting to form a connection with rookie passer Aidan O’Connell.

To combat that, the Vikings need solid performances from their cornerback group. Byron Murphy and Evans are the team’s top two outside cornerbacks, with Mekhi Blackmon taking over during Evans’ absence.

While Blackmon has done a solid job all season, quarterbacks have started to target specifically the rookie in recent games. Evans has played well throughout his sophomore season despite battling some injuries, showing solid growth from his rookie year in which he showed some flashes. Brian Flores will continue to pressure the quarterbacks, putting Evans and Murphy in some one-on-ones against their top receiver.

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Another sweet aspect of the week’s first injury report was that tight end T.J. Hockenson was not mentioned. He was banged up in the last month because of a rib injury, although he battled through the pain and produced some outstanding performances. The Vikings dialed back his workload, giving him a breather on some plays. His target share remained high as he emerged as the favorite target of quarterback Joshua Dobbs.

Hockenson ranks second among tight ends in yards and needs one more touchdown to rank at the top. He also ranks ninth in receptions, only trailing eight wide receivers. Last year’s trade acquisition is on pace to break Minnesota’s single-season receiving yards record for tight ends.

The Vikings need their weapons at full strength to give Dobbs as much help as possible. Having Hockenson back at 100% and Jefferson back in the lineup should boost the struggling passing attack.

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