Vikings Lose Offensive Starter for Remainder of the Season

Kevin O'Connell

Getty Former Vikings Super Bowl quarterback Joe Kapp died at the age of 85 on Monday, May 8, 2023.

Minnesota Vikings center Austin Schlottmann wasn’t a mainstay for most of the 2022 season, however, he proved to be one of the final threads keeping the offensive line intact.

Schlottmann exited Sunday’s 41-17 loss to the Green Bay Packers with an ankle injury. Kevin O’Connell revealed after the game that Schlottmann, who made four consecutive starts in place of Garrett Bradbury, suffered a broken fibula and would be out the rest of the season.

Third-string center Chris Reed was called up to play in relief. His lack of experience, coupled with the elements at Lambeau Field, showed with a series of miscues in the first half that led to an abysmal first half on offense. The Vikings’ first four drives stalled on their first series of four or fewer plays.

“It’s hard and really when you’re talking about our backup center, when you lose him and so you’re really onto your third center in Chris Reed,” O’Connell said in a postgame press conference. “It was a good environment, loud (and) we had some snap-count issues. … We just didn’t execute smoothly early on.”

To make matters worse, Pro Bowl right tackle Brian O’Neill also exited the game with a calf injury and is expected to miss time, according to O’Connell. Oli Udoh replaced O’Neill as the line’s right bookend. O’Neill will undergo an MRI on Monday.

“Brian O’Neill I thought was a big loss for us, but Oli stepped in there, as the expectation is, and did some solid things,” O’Connell added.

Vikings C Garrett Bradbury Dealing With Lingering Injury

With just one game left in the regular season, Minnesota needs its offensive line healthy if they want any chance at competing in the postseason.

There’s been a familiar trend of losing starting linemen and the blowout that has followed. The Vikings lost left tackle Christian Darrisaw at the start of their 40-3 loss to the Dallas Cowboys in Week 11. The Vikings don’t have the depth to support Kirk Cousins beyond the starting five.

That comes back to Bradbury, who through 13 weeks was Pro Football Focus’ 10th-ranked center. Bradbury has been out since Week 14 and remains questionable with a back injury that he aggravated in a car accident the night of the Vikings’ dramatic comeback over the Indianapolis Colts on December 20.

Cousins has taken a beating this season with a league-high 78 hits, per Pro Football Reference. Cousins has played through the pressure and was one of the league’s most productive passers in the month of December, leading the NFC in touchdowns this season.

However, with a pair of starters out on the offensive front, Cousins came back down to earth in Green Bay. He threw three interceptions, fumbled the ball twice with Reed snapping him the ball and finished with a season-low 49.2 passer rating.

 Vikings’ Justin Jefferson’s Quest for 2K Likely Ended in Green Bay

Justin Jefferson‘s historic season may have reached a roadblock with the Vikings’ loss on Sunday.

Jefferson finished the game with a single catch for 15 yards, a career-low for the third-year wide receiver. He currently has 1,771 receiving yards and was chasing both Calvin Johnson’s single-season receiving yards record and the 2,000-yard mark, which has never been reached by a wide receiver in league history.

He was in reach with his current pace, but with a virtual scratch on Sunday, Jefferson may have run out of time.

The Vikings fell to the third seed in the NFC playoff picture and may not play their starter in next Sunday’s season finale against the Chicago Bears.

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