Vikings Rookie Is a Darkhorse Candidate to Start

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The 2024 Minnesota Vikings schedule has been released with a few notable features. Most prominently, of course, is the trip in Week 5 to London to face Aaron Rodgers’ New York Jets. The Houston Texans, with old friends Stefon Diggs, Case Keenum, and Danielle Hunter, will visit U.S. Bank Stadium in Week 3, while Kirk Cousins and the Atlanta Falcons travel to Minnesota in Week 14.

Vikings Rookie Is a Darkhorse Candidate to Start

vikings rookie
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With only two games in primetime, most of the team’s contests will kick off at noon. The fact that the Vikings will open their campaign at MetLife Stadium versus the New York Giants at noon isn’t surprising by any means.

The starting lineup will include various new players, such as Jonathan Greenard and Blake Cashman on defense and Aaron Jones on offense. Some spots still need to be filled, most significantly the quarterback position, which will be decided between Sam Darnold and J.J. McCarthy.

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Another opening is at left guard after Dalton Risner’s departure in free agency. That left a vacancy between center Garrett Bradbury and tackle Christian Darrisaw. Still, the candidates aren’t thrilling on paper, as neither last year’s backup guard Blake Brandel nor veteran journeyman backup Dan Feeney are inspiring choices.

In the seventh round of the draft, though, the Vikings selected Michael Jurgens, an interior lineman from Wake Forest, who could enter that competition.

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The 24-year-old started three campaigns in college, two at center and one (in 2023) at left guard. Last season, he led all guards in the FBS in PFF’s run block grade and only allowed seven QB pressures and 1 QB hit, resulting in an excellent 99% pass-block efficiency.

Rarely do seventh-rounders make an impact in their careers, let alone in their debut seasons, but Jurgens has a chance because of the backup-level competition and the fact that he comes into the league with a high floor. His ceiling is likely capped as his athletic tools are average at best, but his college play suggests a possible immediate impact on the field.

Through four career seasons, Brandel played in 39 games and started five contests: three at left tackle and two at right guard. His Pro Football Focus grades of 55 in each of the last two seasons don’t indicate any hidden starting-caliber play.

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A highly-touted prospect, Feeney started 57 games in his first four seasons for the Chargers before spending the next three seasons as a backup and spot starter with the Jets and Bears. After a solid rookie season, Feeney has been a liability rather than a serviceable option.

The good news is that the other four starters on the offensive line return for another season, and they have been surprisingly good in 2023. However, because the OL relies on all four guys to perform, they must figure out the left guard spot to keep the quarterbacks clean.

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