Vikings Have 3 Roster Battles to Decide during Bye Week

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The Minnesota Vikings continue through their bye week, owners of a 6-6 record and a 59% probability of reaching the postseason, per ESPN.

The 2023 campaign, head coach Kevin O’Connell’s second in charge, has emulated a rollercoaster, featuring an early three-game losing streak, a five-game win spurt, and back to doldrums with two losses consecutively.

Vikings Have 3 Roster Battles to Decide during Bye Week

The club will welcome Justin Jefferson back in 10 days for a contest at the Las Vegas Raiders, and most onlookers hope and believe he’ll be the immediate special sauce to tweak an offense that has sputtered in back-to-back games.

Explained: The Interesting State of the Vikings thru 15 Weeks
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And during the bye, Minnesota has three roster battles to ponder. These are those ranked in ascending order of importance.

3. Inside Linebacker

Roster Battles to Decide
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The Contenders:

  • Troy Dye
  • Anthony Barr
  • Brian Asamoah

For clarity, this shouldn’t be a roster dilemma, but incumbent linebacker Jordan Hicks is out for at least the next two games. He has compartment syndrome and is eligible to return on Christmas Eve versus the Detroit Lions. We shall see.

Ivan Pace is the bellcow inside linebacker, recently playing all snaps without Hicks in the lineup. But after Pace, it’s been a hodgepodge of Dye and Barr snaps through the last two games. Dye slightly outsnapped Barr in the Monday Night Football loss to the Chicago Bears, 21 to 14.

Perhaps Barr will grab a more prominent role as he acclimates to Brian Flores’ defense. Otherwise, the two could, in theory, just split duty until Hicks’ return. And Asamoah is a wildcard who could eventually see playing time.

For now, it’s a Dye-or-Barr choice, at least for starters’ sake.

2. Running Back

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The Contenders:

  • Alexander Mattison
  • Ty Chandler
  • Kene Nwangwu

This isn’t an all-or-nothing predicament, but who gets the most rushing attempts the rest of the way is up in the air. It could reasonably be Mattison or Chandler, possibly Nwangwu if the Vikings get frisky and explorative on offense.

The Vikings’ ground attack has stunk through 12 games, only taking off in Weeks 9 and 10 when Joshua Dobbs used his legs to scamper a bit.

Minnesota cannot get the ground game cooking, and if it fails to reach the postseason or loses right away in the Wildcard Round, not orchestrating a consistent rushing game will be the root cause. Teams don’t have to “establish the run” anymore like the 1990s, but they cannot ignore that aspect of the sport altogether.

Many fans have wanted Chandler to take over RB1, and the remaining five games will render a verdict.

1. Quarterback

Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports. Aug 26, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Jaren Hall (16) throws a pass against the Arizona Cardinals during the third quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports. Aug 19, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Nick Mullens (12) drops back to throw a pass during the first quarter against the Tennessee Titans at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

The Contenders:

  • Joshua Dobbs
  • Jaren Hall
  • Nick Mullens

Dobbs has turned on the fumble and interception faucet in the last two games, and it’s unclear if he’ll turn it off. Hall is the great unknown as a rookie and could play marvelously, horribly, or in the middle. And then Mullens is more Limited than the 1990s Express retail fashion chain.

For the positives, Dobbs is the fastest and most mobile when he’s in the mood. Hall is a blend of Dobbs and Mullens, able to scramble, and was accurate throwing the pigskin in college. Mullens is a Kirk Cousins with the most playbook experience in the current offense.

O’Connell wouldn’t name a starter on Monday after the loss or Tuesday at a press conference — and probably won’t for a week or so — but the next QB1 at the Raiders will be Dobbs, Hall, or Mullens.

Currently, it’s a true threeway toss-up.

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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