49ers Star Sees Carbon Copy of Himself on Vikings Roster
When the Vikings selected Christian Darrisaw in the first round of the 2021 draft, the hope was that he could develop into one of the better left tackles in the NFL. Sixteen months later, the Vikings seem to have struck gold with their cornerstone blind side protector of Kirk Cousins.
He played college football at Virginia Tech and was among the country’s best tackles. Most Vikings fans would’ve been happy to get him at 14. The Chargers snatched Rashawn Slater at 13, and he’s looking like a superstar early in his career. One pick later, the Vikings traded their 14th pick with the Jets and were on the clock at 23. Surprisingly, Darrisaw fell to that pick, and Rick Spielman didn’t hesitate and picked the left tackle.
The Vikings already had Brian O’Neill on the right side of the line and built a promising duo of offensive tackles after years of struggling offensive lines. However, Darrisaw wasn’t healthy. He had to undergo core muscle surgery and missed the offseason program. In addition to that, he later had to undergo another procedure and missed the first games of the season. Once Darrisaw replaced Rashod Hill in Week 6, a big difference was visible. Yet, the missed time in the offseason was a problem and led to inconsistent play. During the 2022 offseason and preseason, the second-year player has been completely healthy and took a big step forward.
Darrisaw is drawing praise out of training camp regularly. The latest buzz about him were comparisons to superstar left tackle Trent Williams.
They think [Darrisaw] is going to be really, really good. It seems to me, based on the people I’ve spoken with, that he’s already exceeded the expectations of those who are already on the staff. The comparison I get here—no one is saying that Darrisaw is him right now—Trent Williams.
Ian Rapoport, NFL Network
That’s considerable praise for the young player as Williams might be the best left tackle of this generation. He’s an absolute bully in the run game and shields away defenders from his quarterback in the passing game. His strengths are absurd athleticism for his size and great power. Interestingly, Darrisaw’s skill set can be described with the exact words.
Head coach Kevin O’Connell was asked about his offensive lineman, and he applauded his future star, “The strength, he’s got great feet, he’s got the length to play that position. It’s tough with some of the rushers they have to go against, but I think it’s an underrated thing we don’t talk about enough – the game makes sense to him.”
During training camp, the left tackle goes up against Danielle Hunter and Za’Darius Smith, two Pro Bowl-caliber pass rushers. He should be battle-tested once the season begins on September 11th against the Green Bay Packers.
However, on Wednesday and Thursday, his opponent was a different Pro Bowl pass rusher — Nick Bosa. Bosa returned from a torn ACL last season and recorded 15.5 sacks in 2021. During joint practices with the 49ers, he went up against Darrisaw.
On the first day, he played well against the former second overall pick, while he struggled a little on the second. Some struggles against elite players are no cause for concern. Even Trent Williams had some problems with Za’Darius Smith. In the NFL, even great players don’t win every rep.
Interesting news, however, surfaced after the practice sessions — Williams addressed the Darrisaw comparisons to himself.
I love C.D [Christian Darrisaw]. He’s a great kid. He’s open and willing to learning. He’s physically gifted. … I do see a lot of myself in him, especially the young Trent.
Players rarely compare themselves to others. So if they do, it’s something to take seriously.
Our conversations are me just kind of helping him morph into a more consistent professional. He took a huge leap from year one to year two. And it’s just the little things. He’s such an athlete that he overlooks the technical part of the game because he can just wake up and win.
Williams said that he had the same tendency to just win with athleticism and not care about his technique, “That’s how I got through college, that’s how I got through my first three or four years in the NFL. I still have bad habits going back to that, so that’s all I’m working on (Darrisaw) about, just kind of letting him know what’s to come, what changes to make and what could help him.”
If Darrisaw can get some help from Williams, he might be excellent in the upcoming season and provide solid protection for Kirk Cousins. Overall, the offensive line could be improved and might be the best Cousins had in Minnesota.
Danielle Hunter sees him every day in practice. He also recognized a big leap from the second-year player. All of that praise is encouraging.
Darrisaw recently talked about his goal for the upcoming season, as he wants to become a Pro Bowler, like Brian O’Neill, after the 2021 campaign. When he said it, it sure sounded like a stretch. After the promising camp, it’s suddenly a possibility. He has to take the momentum into the season and make sure that his emergence as the new star of the Vikings’ offensive line becomes a reality and not just empty words.
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