3 Things You Need To Know About the First Six Weeks Of the Vikings Season

Photo Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Although they are 5-1, the Minnesota Vikings find themselves in a strange place. Their only convincing win came against the dysfunctional Green Bay Packers in Week 1. However, their only blowout loss has been against the undefeated Philadelphia Eagles in Week 2. Mistakes and bad play have marred every game this season, yet the Purple and Gold have managed to hold on until the clock hits zero, squeezing out yet another victory.

The Vikings are currently in command of the NFC North, and winning the division is now a reasonable expectation. The bye week allows the team — and the fanbase — to regroup and reevaluate what needs to change and what they need to continue if Minnesota wants to continue to be a contender in a wide-open NFC.

Rookie Contributions

The Vikings’ 2022 draft class has been hard to evaluate in the first third of the season. Minnesota’s first two draft picks, Lewis Cine and Andrew Booth Jr., have played two combined snaps on defense. Both have suffered injuries, and Cine sustained a season-ending leg injury in Week 4. Booth was off the injury report in Week 6, but he only played a handful of special teams snaps, indicating he is not ready to take the field on defense. Though it shouldn’t be an indictment on their future with the team, they’ve been injured while the team is winning in 2022.

However, other Vikings rookies have made a huge impact thus far.

Second-round pick Ed Ingram won the starting right guard spot in the preseason. Although he has had a rough start, leading Minnesota in sacks allowed with four, he showed the coaching staff that he was an upgrade. Fourth-round pick Akayleb Evans has been the first corner in when a starter needs a break. Even UDFA punter Ryan Wright has shown his value, winning NFC special teams player of the week against the Miami Dolphins, highlighted by a 72-yard punt from his own end zone.

The rookies have been a mixed bag, but there’s a lot of upside for the rest of the season. If Booth shows he is ready and third-round linebacker Brian Asamoah continues to see more playing time, this group could look a lot better by the end of the season.

Justin Jefferson is having a year

Sure, Jefferson barely saw the ball in Weeks 2 and 3. But, man, did the defense really have to sell out to stop him? Jefferson was double-covered all day in those matchups. The Vikings’ offense couldn’t adjust against the Eagles but got it together the following week against the Detroit Lions.

Not including the multitude of holding, illegal contact, and pass-interference penalties that Detroit’s secondary committed to try to slow down the rest of the Minnesota weapons, Kirk Cousins still threw 246 yards to receivers not named Jefferson. Teams have been more hesitant to throw everything they have at Jefferson since then, and J.J. has flourished.

In the last four weeks, Jefferson has averaged 136 yards per matchup. If he continues that pace, he will finish the season with 2,150 yards, breaking Calvin Johnson’s 2012 record by 186 yards. Even if you include the bad weeks, Jefferson is still on pace for 1,853 yards, good enough to beat Jerry Rice for fourth place all-time.

Jefferson is at the beginning of what could be an all-time season. While he’s only recorded three total touchdowns, expect Jefferson to bounce back in this regard. He’s simply too good to keep out of the end zone forever. The Vikings need to continue to feed Jefferson when he’s open and punish the defenses who sell out to stop him.

Offensive line play

As mentioned above, Ingram has been a bit of a weak point on the offensive line, posting the lowest PFF ranking on the unit at 61.2. However, the Vikings likely have the best line they’ve had since Brett Favre was in town.

Christian Darrisaw has been an absolute monster at left tackle, allowing zero sacks while committing no penalties. If his play continues, he has a good shot at making a Pro Bowl. Meanwhile, on the other side of the line, Brian O’Neill has been a staple of the running attack, and PFF has him ranked seventh among tackles in pass blocking. The Vikings run a lot of the ground attack to the right, and O’Neill is a big reason why.

The interior of the line has struggled in pass protection, but every one has a top-12 run-block PFF grade for their position. While PFF is not the end-all-be-all for offensive line play, it can give an approximation of how a player has been performing, and the Vikings linemen have been performing at the highest level that fans have seen for a decade.

If Ingram can iron out a few rookie mistakes, such as figuring out spacing and not oversetting in the pocket, he should also be able to become a force. He was well-regarded for his pass-protection at LSU.

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