Risner is slated to earn up to $4 million on a one-year deal he signed with the Vikings on Wednesday, September 20. That amount of investment is a clear indication that Minnesota intends for Risner to play.
All signs point to second-year guard Ed Ingram being replaced by Risner. Ingram surrendered the most pressures in the league last year as a rookie and hasn’t shown significant improvement so far this season.
The plan has been to give Ingram as many reps as possible. The Vikings even entertained shipping off the man opposite of Ingram, left guard Ezra Cleveland.
KSTP’s Darren Wolfson reported on September 21 that Minnesota considered trading Cleveland, who is playing on an expiring contract this season.
“They kicked around the idea of trading Ezra Cleveland before the season,” Wolfson said, adding that Cleveland would like the opportunity to play tackle.
“He’s in a contract year. Drafted as a tackle out of Boise, he did what the team has asked him to do [play guard], but ultimately he views himself as a tackle,” Wolfson added. “I don’t know if he would fully admit that, but he’d love to market himself in March as a tackle, not a guard.”
Cleveland is currently the 22nd highest-graded guard in the league by Pro Football Focus (PFF) entering the third week of the season. His 76.9 pass-blocking grade ranks No. 9 among qualifying guards while allowing three pressures in two games.
Cleveland has been a serviceable guard in his tenure in Minnesota. He is more than likely expected to play out the remainder of the season with the Vikings looking to compete this season, leading Wolfson to expect the Ingram experiment to be over.
“I have a hard time believing it wouldn’t be the Ed Ingram spot at right guard,” Wolfson said. “I don’t know how you would pull Ezra Cleveland then leave Ed Ingram on the field and put Risner at his more natural spot.”
Ed Ingram Could Stay in Vikings Starting Lineup
Risner’s expected role in Minnesota remains a mystery entering Week 3. Kevin O’Connell and Risner have kept it under wraps throughout his abridged week of preparation for a pivotal matchup with the Los Angeles Chargers.
The game has been penned as a must-win matchup for both teams, who are battling to avoid a dreaded 0-3 start that only six teams since 1979 have come back from and made the playoffs.
If Risner is capable of picking up his assignments by Sunday, he needs to start.
But where he lands depends on how the injuries to the rest of the line pan out. Center Garrett Bradbury is questionable on Sunday with a back injury. Risner has played center and could play his spot in a pinch.
But the responsibilities of center are much steeper than guard, and with less than a week to prepare, it’s unlikely Risner will be center on Sunday.
However, Ingram took snaps at center during training camp and could be a candidate to move to center and vacate a guard spot for Risner. Austin Schlottmann has been serviceable in Bradbury’s stead, but there is a possibility of Ingram moving to center if Bradbury is out long-term.
Vikings Final Injury Report: Christian Darrisaw Expected to Return vs. Chargers, Davenport Out
Left tackle Christian Darrisaw, ailing with an ankle injury, is expected to play on Sunday against the Chargers. The third-year tackle was out last week against the Philadelphia Eagles but practiced in full on Friday.
Wide receiver and special teams gunner Jalen Nailor was placed on injured reserve on Thursday with a hamstring injury. He will be out for at least the next four games.