One Vikings Playmaker Could Return at the Perfect Time

Jan 11, 2020; Santa Clara, California, USA; A Minnesota Vikings fans holds a sign before the game against the San Francisco 49ers in a NFC Divisional Round playoff football game at Levi's Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports.

Want to know a fact not widely known by Minnesota Vikings fans?

The team actually has two wide receivers on injured reserve due to hamstring problems.

One Vikings Playmaker Could Return at the Perfect Time

One is reigning Offensive Player of the Year Justin Jefferson, and he’s out for at least three more games. The other guy is a wee bit forgotten — Jalen Nailor.

Return at the Perfect
Nov 24, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Jalen Nailor (83) celebrates after making a stop against the New England Patriots during the fourth quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

Nailor, 24, was added to injured reserve around the same time the Vikings traded for running back Cam Akers. But recovering from a hamstring injury, Nailor will be eligible to return on the 53-man roster as early as this week.

It is unclear if he’ll be active and ready for Monday night’s showdown with the San Francisco 49ers or if the club will reintroduce Nailor gradually as it is currently doing with running back + kick returner Kene Nwangwu.

Jan 1, 2023; Green Bay, Wisconsin, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Jalen Nailor (83) rushes for a touchdown as Green Bay Packers cornerback Corey Ballentine (35) defends during the fourth quarter at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports.

But the Vikings need Nailor; that factoid is undebateable. Jefferson fell injured eight days ago in a loss to the Kansas City Chiefs and will remain off the field until November. After Jefferson on the depth chart, Minnesota employs Jordan Addison, K.J. Osborn, Brandon Powell, N’Keal Harry, and Trishton Jackson. And before the Vikings added Addison in the 2023 NFL Draft, Nailor was tentatively on deck for WR3 duties.

For the next few games, if he’s ready, Minnesota needs him more than ever.

WR Returns
Oct 2, 2022; London, United Kingdom; Minnesota Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell (left) and wide receiver Jalen Nailor (83) before an NFL International Series game against the New Orleans Saints at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports.

Nailor tallied 9 receptions for 179 yards and a touchdown in his rookie campaign, along with some flashy clips to whet fans’ appetites for the offseason. Incidentally, Nailor did most of his damage in “garbage time” and will hope to repeat the production  and then some  in the middle of games at some point in 2023.

In that limited sample, Nailor showed the gumption to thrive at the NFL level, and it will be up to him to determine if he’s got the grit for WR3 or WR4 on an every week basis. He laid the blueprint down the stretch of 2022.

Oct 2, 2022; London, United Kingdom; New Orleans Saints wide receiver Chris Olave (left) and Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Jalen Nailor (right) pose after exchanging jerseys during an NFL International Series game at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. The Vikings defeated the Saints 28-25. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports.

Heading into the 2022 NFL Draft, Minnesota’s wide receiver coach Keenan McCardell reportedly ‘pounded the table’ for Nailor. At Michigan State in 2021, he tallied 695 receiving yards and six touchdowns. Nicknamed Speedy, the young playmaker has run a 4.39 forty-yard dash in the past, although he registered a 4.5-mark at the 2022 NFL Combine.

If Nailor does not return in Week 7 or 8, the Vikings will continue to lean on Addison and Osborn, which worked in the 1st Half against the Chicago Bears but faltered thereafter.

Free-agent WRs Jarvis Landry, Julio Jones, Kenny Golladay, and T.Y. Hilton, among others, remain available on the open market.

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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