Last week against the New England Patriots, Minnesota found themselves without two of their top cornerback options. It was an all-hands-on-deck approach that wound up proving victorious. With another test this week, the two young corners couldn’t be trending in more opposite directions.
A few weeks ago, Akayleb Evans emerged as Minnesota’s defensive standout against the Washington Commanders and Taylor Heinecke. In a come-from-behind game where Kirk Cousins orchestrated yet another late victory, Evans made multiple key plays to help Minnesota seal the victory.
Unfortunately, his time to shine was limited as a concussion kept him from playing against the Dallas Cowboys, and he remained sidelined on Thanksgiving against the Patriots. Dealing with a brain injury can be tricky and couldn’t bring forth more caution when considering future health. It is something that Evans should soon overcome, but he’s made it clear that he is more than excited to be back on the field.
While clearance has yet to be granted, it is positive to see that Evans is practicing with teammates and working towards taking his spot back in the lineup. Behind Patrick Peterson and Chandon Sullivan, the Vikings secondary depth is exceptionally thin.
What’s more disheartening is that Evans is trending up as the later-round pick, while 2022 2nd-round pick Andrew Booth Jr. continues to succumb to injury. Booth slipped in the draft solely because of his inability to stay on the field, and that track record hasn’t changed thus far in the NFL. He was a late participant during training camp, and he didn’t make an impact during the regular season for weeks. After drawing a recent start with Evans out, Booth’s season is over.
The Vikings knew they were rolling the dice in selecting Booth Jr., but they also realized that was the only reason the opportunity presented itself. Using a 2nd round pick on a guy Kevin O’Connell hoped to develop and contribute this year, the rookie season couldn’t have gone more pear-shaped. For all involved, the emergence of Evans has been a godsend to cover up what has been nothing generated from the former Clemson product.
On a related note, the Vikings seem encouraged that starting corner Cam Dantzler will come off injured reserve when he is first eligible next week. His presence is certainly one that a porous secondary could use.
Ted Schwerzler is a blogger from the Twin Cities that is focused on all things Minnesota Twins and Minnesota Vikings. He’s active on Twitter and writes weekly for Twins Daily. As a former college athlete and avid sports fan, covering our pro teams with a passion has always seemed like such a natural outlet.