Vikings Give Disconcerting Injury Updates on 2 Elite Starters

Christian Darrisaw, Vikings

Getty LT Christian Darrisaw of the Minnesota Vikings warms up before a game against the Detroit Lions in October 2021.

The Minnesota Vikings won an all-timer in spectacular fashion over the Buffalo Bills on Sunday, but it came at a cost.

Head coach Kevin O’Connell during his postgame press conference detailed three injuries to major contributors on the Vikings roster in the trenches, including two to starters in the trenches.

Akayleb Evans and Christian Darrisaw did exit the game with concussions, and then [Za’Darius Smith] was just kind of dealing with a knee contusion there,” O’Connell said. “He was playing hard all day long and finished the game, but we’ll see how he feels [Monday].”

Vikings’ Darrisaw Has Been Best Tackle in NFL Through 10 Games

Christian Darrisaw, Vikings

GettyLT Christian Darrisaw (left) and RB Alexander Mattison (right) of the Minnesota Vikings celebrate a touchdown during the second half of a game against the Detroit Lions at U.S. Bank Stadium on October 10, 2021 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

It is a bit hard to imagine that any Vikings player could still be flying under the radar after the team’s blistering 8-1 start, particularly one that is literally the best in the league at his position, but that’s exactly the case with Darrisaw.

Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press on Monday, November 14, tweeted out information on the second-year tackle that many outside of Minnesota may yet be unaware of.

“#Vikings left tackle Christian Darrisaw is No. 1 rated tackle in NFL by Pro Football Focus with grade of 89.8,” Tomasson wrote. “He said before season a goal was to make the Pro Bowl. Now he says it’s also to be first-team All Pro. He has a good shot. He left Sunday’s game due to a concussion.”

Darrisaw is equally dominant against the pass and the run, per PFF’s rating system. He has an 84.7 rating against opposing pass rushers and moves the pile in the run game to the tune of an 88.6 grade.

The Vikings offensive line has been fairly dominant across the board, as Pro-Bowl tackle Brian O’Neill (78.7) ranks 10th at the position, Ezra Cleveland (71.9) ranks 13th out of 81 qualifying offensive guards and Garrett Bradbury (69.5) has produced a bounce back campaign ranking ninth among 38 qualifying centers, per PFF.

Minnesota’s offensive line play against the Dallas Cowboys next Sunday will be something to watch if Darrisaw is unable to clear the league’s now more stringent concussion protocol in time to make it back onto the field.

Za’Darius Smith Having Pass Rushing Renaissance With Vikings in 2022

Za'Darius Smith, Vikings

GettyPass rusher Za’Darius Smith #55 of the Minnesota Vikings runs to a play during the third quarter of a game against the Buffalo Bills at Highmark Stadium on November 13, 2022 in Orchard Park, New York. (Photo by Isaiah Vazquez/Getty Images)

As painful as it will be for the offense if Darrisaw is unable to take the field on November 20 in Dallas, it will be equally harmful to the defense if Smith can’t go.

The 30-year-old pass rusher has had a resurgent campaign with the Vikings in 2022 after a back injury limited him to one regular season start and one playoff outing with the Green Bay Packers last year. Prior to that, however, Smith earned two consecutive Pro-Bowl trips by amassing a combined 26 sacks and 60 quarterback hits while starting all 32 regular season games, per Pro Football Reference.

But when the Packers ate a nearly $11.5 million cap hit just to get rid of Smith during the offseason — not to mention treated him poorly from the top of the organization on down for deciding to get back surgery, per Smith’s accounting of internal details — he thought his career might be over.

Fortunately for Smith and the Vikings, nothing could have been further from the truth.

Smith has been phenomenal all season, currently tied for second in the NFL with 9.5 sacks through nine games. He is also tied for first in the league with 14 tackles for loss and has tallied a whopping 55 quarterback pressures, per PFF. The website currently ranks him 11th among all edge rushers (119 qualifying players at the position) with an overall grade of 83.2 and a pass rush grade of 88.8.

Evans, the third player O’Connell noted in his postgame injury report to the media, has not been as crucial as either Smith or Darrisaw to the Vikings’ success this season.

The fourth-round pick has, however, appeared in all nine games for Minnesota and earned the first start of his career against the Bills on Sunday, helping to replace injured staring cornerback Cameron Dantzler who is on IR for at least the next three weeks due to a bad ankle.

Evans played a total of 35 snaps in Buffalo, usage the Vikings will have to scrape to replace should the rookie defensive back remain sidelined against Dallas as he navigates concussion protocol.

Chandon Sullivan is set to take the majority of the snaps at the right cornerback position in Dantzler’s place, the same as he did Sunday when he played 70 snaps against the Bills.

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