The Minnesota Vikings had to have believed they landed a franchise left tackle when they selected Christian Darrisaw in this year’s draft. But the first month of his career has required patience after he needed a second groin surgery in August.
With only a handful of practices under his belt, the Vikings have vowed to bring Darrisaw along slowly. But because their offensive line struggles against elite defenses, now is the time to throw Darrisaw into the lineup.
Before last Sunday’s loss to the Cleveland Browns, the Vikings had done a good job protecting Kirk Cousins. Pro Football Focus had them graded fourth in pass-blocking efficiency, and that protection led to one of the best months of Cousins’ career.
However, things unraveled against the Browns, and the offensive line allowed a 50% pressure rate against Cousins. While all five linemen struggled, Rashod Hill was a microcosm of Minnesota’s performance.
Hill ranks second among all offensive linemen with 18 pressures allowed and sixth with four penalties committed. His overall grade is fourth-worst among qualifiers. Iit’s starting to look like Hill is overmatched against faster, stronger defenders.
Vikings fans could see this coming back in August when Hill struggled in preseason practices against the Denver Broncos. With no other option on the roster, the Vikings were always going to need to rely on Hill for the first month. But that changes once Darrisaw is ready to play.
When the Vikings released Riley Reiff, they were getting rid of a player who didn’t allow a sack the entire season. While they brought back Hill on a one-year deal, it was done so they had a player who could step in if something went wrong. Darrisaw had surgery, and Hill was the next man up.
Darrisaw will be relied upon to be a plug-and-play option after a remarkable senior season at Virginia Tech. With no sacks allowed last season, Darrisaw’s size and athleticism were deemed NFL ready, and the Vikings will have to rely on him with no other long-term option on the roster.
Darrisaw practiced in full leading up to the game against the Browns, but Klint Kubiak still gave Hill a vote of confidence.
“Rashod’s our guy,” Kubiak said. “[It’s] good to have Christian back in practice. He’s getting better [but] he’s only had a few days, so we have to build him up and do it the right way.”
Understandably, the Vikings would have Hill take on Trey Hendrickson, Chandler Jones, and Myles Garrett while Darrisaw recovered, but he’s not a player who should be blocking Darrisaw from playing time.
Penei Sewell, Rashawn Slater, and Alijah Vera-Tucker were all selected ahead of Darrisaw in the draft, and not all of their transitions have gone smoothly. But all three players have a better overall grade than Hill, suggesting that Darrisaw can’t possibly be worse.
Vikings fans have been down that road before with Dru Samia and every guard from the past decade. But at 1-3, they need to pick up wins immediately. If the Vikings want to be serious contenders, it starts with putting Darrisaw out there on Sunday.