There’s good news and bad news on the injury report leading up to Sunday’s game between the Minnesota Vikings and Cincinnati Bengals.
The good? Minnesota should get back two-thirds of their injured offensive linemen back.
Right tackle Mike Remmers is expected to make his first start since Week 8 against the Cleveland Browns, and rookie Pat Elflein should start at center after missing his first career game against the Carolina Panthers. Even Riley Reiff made some progress with limited participation in Friday’s practice, though he is still listed as doubtful for Sunday’s game.
The bad news? Minnesota is going to be limited at tight end.
Kyle Rudolph (ankle) is doubtful for Sunday’s game, and Blake Bell (shoulder) was placed on injured reserve Friday morning, leaving only David Morgan and practice squad call-up Kyle Carter.
“I’ve been doing a lot this week,” said Carter, who has likely been working with the scout team as well as the starers. “But it’s definitely been fun. I’m excited for the opportunity.”
Granted, the Vikings went into last Sunday’s game having just two tight ends with Rudolph and Bell, but losing Rudolph, their top red-zone threat, is a significant loss.
Rudolph was on pace for a 65-catch, nine-touchdown season before the injury, which caused him to miss Minnesota’s final drive against the Panthers.
He has four touchdowns in the last three games, ranks fourth in the league in red-zone receptions and possesses the highest red-zone catch rate (86.7 percent) of any player with over 10 targets.
Presumably, Carter will become an immediate receiving option. Morgan, considered more of a blocker, has just six career receptions in 318 offensive snaps.
“I feel like I’m ready,” said Carter. “[Tight ends] coach [Clancy] Barone’s got me ready. Kyle Rudolph, David Morgan and Blake have definitely been great all year, so I’m ready to go.”
Zimmer told reporters Thursday that he has a plan on how to simulate three tight end sets even without a third true tight end.