Alas, the Dalton Risner Era Begins

Even National Voices
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Three major injuries have affected the Minnesota Vikings in the last two weeks, sidelining wide receiver Justin Jefferson, outside linebacker Marcus Davenport, and most recently, left guard Ezra Cleveland.

And the latter injury means one thing for eager Vikings fans — the Dalton Risner era has arrived.

Alas, the Dalton Risner Era Begins

Risner joined the Vikings about a month ago via free agency after fans had called for the acquisition for weeks. Then, folks wanted the former Denver Bronco transplanted into the starting lineup, as young lineman Ed Ingram had struggled at times.

the Dalton Risner Era
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But the Vikings didn’t oblige, and Ingram has improved markedly in the last three games. However, on Sunday, Cleveland was injured at the Chicago Bears, thrusting Risner into action for about 10 snaps.

Thereafter, on Saturday afternoon, The Athletic’s Alec Lewis tweeted, “Vikings HC Kevin O’Connell says that LG Ezra Cleveland will be out Monday against the 49ers. Dalton Risner will start.”

Minnesota’s offensive trenches will look like this on Monday Night Football versus the mighty San Francisco 49ers:

  • LT: Christian Darrisaw
  • LG: Dalton Risner
  • C: Garrett Bradbury
  • RG: Ed Ingram
  • RT: Brian O’Neill
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Moreover, this could be a peek into the future. Cleveland is playing on the final year of his contract, and it is unclear if the Vikings will offer a hefty paycheck for his next deal in March. In that vein, Risner could audition on the fly for a 2024 starter’s job if Minnesota prefers a cheaper option.

The MNF assignment makes sense, too, for Risner, whose resume mostly consists of left guard snaps. Theoretically, he could play right guard if Ingram struggled tremendously, but getting action at left guard is more familiar.

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Meanwhile, the Vikings offensive line is suddenly dominant, according to Pro Football Focus. In a mind-boggling turn of events for Vikings fans, the club’s offensive trenches have finally stabilized after years of trouble. Through Week 6, Minnesota ranks tops in the business per offensive line run-blocking and third in pass protection. Whoodathunkit?

We shall see if the performance dips, but Risner should be one of the best reservist OG options in the league filling in for Cleveland.

NFL: Los Angeles Chargers at Denver Broncos
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The 49ers defensive front is one of the best in the sport, perhaps only rivaled by the Philadelphia Eagles. Life without Cleveland, but with Risner, will be put to an instantaneous trial for a Vikings team that desperately must avoid a 2-5 start to the season.

Risner banked a 56.5 PFF grade in the limited sample last weekend. His 78.4 pass-blocking score was particularly impressive. He’s faced the 49ers once in his career, and the Broncos were victorious.

Here’s his Pro Football Focus resume since turning pro four years ago:

  • 2019 = 64.4
  • 2020 = 61.3
  • 2021 = 68.5
  • 2022 = 61.1

The 49ers are favored by a touchdown to topple Minnesota.

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).

All statistics provided by Pro Football Reference / Stathead; all contractual information provided by