Next Vikings’ Starting Defender Hits IR

Aug 19, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; A Minnesota Vikings helmet sits on the turf before the game against the Tennessee Titans at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

Injuries have not been kind to the Minnesota Vikings throughout the 2023 season.

Without Kirk Cousins and Justin Jefferson in the lineup, the team has been missing a significant strength of the passing game: the explosive plays. On defense, the Vikings have taken hits by losing Jordan Hicks and Marcus Davenport to injured reserve. Another defender will be out for a while.

Next Vikings’ Starting Defender Hits IR

During the game against the Denver Broncos on Sunday, defensive end Dean Lowry was spotted leaving the game, and the aesthetics of it immediately suggested a potentially serious pectoral injury. On Monday, head coach Kevin O’Connell confirmed a torn pectoral muscle, and he will be placed on injured reserve.

starting defender hits
Sep 14, 2023; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Minnesota Vikings defensive end Dean Lowry (94) and defensive tackle Harrison Phillips (97) against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Players placed on IR can return after missing the mandatory amount of four games, but Lowry shouldn’t be expected back anytime soon. Depending on the grade of the injury, the recovery timeline can be up to six months. His season is most likely over.

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Aug 15, 2019; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) runs past Green Bay Packers defensive back Mike Tyson (32) and defensive end Dean Lowry (94) during the first quarter at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports.

Lowry signed with the Vikings in free agency as one of the three major additions to the defense with Davenport and Byron Murphy. He is in the eighth year of his career, spending the first seven with the Packers, who drafted him out of Northwestern in the fourth round of the 2016 draft.

Lowry appeared in 111 games in Green Bay in those seven seasons, missing only three. He logged 80 starts. After joining his second NFC North team, Lowry was inactive in the previous two contests after playing the first eight games of the season with a groin injury.

Sep 10, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Rachaad White (1) is tackled by Minnesota Vikings linebacker Danielle Hunter (99) and defensive end Dean Lowry (94), and linebacker Ivan Pace Jr. (40) as guard Luke Goedeke (67) attempts to block during the second quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

Without Lowry, the Vikings aren’t missing much statistical production. He has never been a big numbers guy, and he doesn’t jump off the screen because of splashy plays. However, he is still a solid player, taking on unrewarding jobs and assignments. His ability to hold blockers in place is what allows guys around him, like Harrison Phillips, Jordan Hicks, or Danielle Hunter to make plays.

In his first season in Minnesota, if he doesn’t surprisingly come back later in the year, he made 14 combined tackles. His most noteworthy play came against the 49ers when he recovered a fumble.

Nov 20, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings defensive end Jonathan Bullard (93) celebrates during the second quarter against the Dallas Cowboys at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports.

Without Lowry, who played 40% of the defensive plays, 237 to be exact, the Vikings must find their defensive line help elsewhere. On the roster, they have Phillips as the unquestioned top guy in the middle of the line, accompanied by rookie Jaquelin Roy and veterans Khyiris Tonga and Jonathan Bullard. All four guys were active on Sunday, with Bullard and Phillips playing the majority of the reps if Brian Flores wants to have two defensive linemen in his lineup.

The injury could potentially trigger the signing of a new defensive tackle. Players like Akiem Hicks or Ndamukong Suh are at the tail end of their careers, but both are free agents and could replace Lowry on a defensive line that has been playing well throughout the season despite the absence of a big-name player.

The defender signed a two-year $8.5 million contract. He will turn 30 in June.

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