Injury Bug: Vikings Rule Out 6 Players for Season Finale

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Minnesota’s 2023 season will be remembered for its extensive injuries. The Vikings have been without Kirk Cousins since his torn Achilles in Week 8, Marcus Davenport who was supposed to be a game-changer on defense but has barely played, T.J. Hockenson suffered a brutal knee injury and Justin Jefferson missed a big chunk of the year.

Injury Bug: Vikings Rule Out 6 Players for Season Finale

Injury Bug: Vikings Rule Out 6 Players for Season Finale
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Besides those significant injuries that landed players on injured reserve, the Vikes had a bunch of minor issues that kept athletes out for a game or two. And that trend continues into the final week of the year as Kevin O’Connell announced the players set to miss the divisional game in Detroit.

Most folks had a bad feeling when they had a glimpse of the injury reports in the last few days but missing practice on Wednesday and Thursday doesn’t automatically rule out a player for Sunday’s game. But in this case, it does.

Head coach Kevin O’Connell stepped in front of the media on Friday and announced six absent players: Mekhi Blackmon, Byron Murphy, Theo Jackson, Jaquelin Roy, Brian O’Neill, and Jalen Nailor.

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Especially handicapped will be the defensive backfield that will be without CB1 Murphy and top backup Mekhi Blackmon, leaving sophomore Akayleb Evans and Andrew Booth as the only two cornerbacks. Practice squad players Jaylin Williams and Joejuan Williams could be elevated for the contest.

Murphy was the big signing to a young and unproven cornerback group and he did a decent job in the first 14 games before a knee injury kept him out of the other three. He has mostly been a reliable player and should be expected to lead the CB room again in 2024.

Rookie Blackmon has shown flashes of a really good cornerback but he was exposed in some other plays. Better technique in his sophomore year could elevate him to become a solid player for the Vikings.

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With safety Jackson out for his second straight game, former first-rounder Lewis Cine could get some more run after playing the first eight snaps on defense this year against Green Bay. He continues to disappoint although a player with his athletic talent should never be ruled out.

Defensive lineman Roy will finish his rookie season with 12 games and 96 defensive snaps. He hasn’t made a big impact despite the subpar talent on the defensive line. As a fifth-round selection, he could be in danger of missing out on a roster spot if the Vikings add some linemen in the offseason.

But not just the defense will be without some key player, the offense will also be limited without right tackle O’Neill. After partially tearing his Achilles tendon in Week 17 last year, his status to open the season was in question but he came back just in time to start in Week 1, playing in 14 games and almost 900 snaps. He will continue to be the starting right tackle for years to come but his season is over unless the Vikings miraculously make a trip to the postseason.

WR Returns
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Receiver Nailor has had a disappointing second season after some wonderful performances in 2022 but injuries just continue to be a problem for the sophomore who only logged 3 catches for 29 yards in 2023.

In addition to the six players with an out designation, Christian Darrisaw and Ed Ingram are listed as questionable. The offensive line could be down to only two starters–Garrett Bradbury and Ed Ingram when they block for starter Nick Mullens.

O’Connell’s operation must win against Detroit while also hoping for losses from Green Bay, Seattle, and either Tampa Bay or New Orleans to make the playoffs. Unless those four things happen, the Vikes only play for draft position.

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