Maybe The Real Slim Shady could stand up, but Marshall Mathers doesn’t play for the Minnesota Vikings. Instead, Christian Darrisaw was back at practice, and soon Kirk Cousins could have his future All-Pro back to protect his blindside.
Having suffered concussions in consecutive weeks, the Minnesota Vikings have understandably taken things slowly with their former first-round pick. Christian Darrisaw has emerged as one of the best tackles in the NFL, and there’s no denying his presence on the offensive line has been missed. However, with brain injuries, long-term health must be considered, and Minnesota has been taking it slow.
Keeping Darrisaw out of action against the New England Patriots last season was the right choice, but it brought uncertainties. Matthew Judon is the current NFL sack leader, and Bill Belichick’s squad has one of the best pass rushes in the NFL. Again the Vikings needed to come from behind, and while the offensive line allowed Kirk Cousins to go down just a single time, there was plenty of uncertainty going into the game.
Now facing an equally impressive New York Jets defense, the Vikings will again look to backup Blake Brandel to step up. Darrisaw returned to practice on Friday but was wearing a red no-contact jersey. He will not be active on Sunday, forcing the makeshift line to again come up big in a significant spot.
Similarly to the Patriots game, Minnesota will need to utilize quick plays to get the ball out of Cousins’ hands before the pass rush can make him pay. There’s a need for Brandel to play above his presumed skill level, but the gameplan and scheme from O’Connell must lean into the strengths of the players he has on the field. It’s more encouraging to see Darrisaw back on the field, but another injury is not something anyone wants to see.
For Darrisaw specifically, there’s hope this can be the first year of many that he makes it as a first-team All-Pro. Pro Football Focus has Darrisaw as the second-ranked tackle in the NFL, behind only San Francisco’s Trent Williams. Hardly an elder, Darrisaw’s positioning is beyond encouraging. Removing the revolving door at such an integral position was the goal when drafting Darrisaw, and we’re starting to see that bear fruit.
It’s encouraging to see the emerging star back at practice. It’s equally inspiring to know he will not be put on the field until he is entirely healthy. That may come next week, and in the meantime, the line needs to step up once again.
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.