Vikings’ Pass Rush May Be Less Fearsome Against Saints

Questions Answered: X-Factor for Week 1, Irv Smith Prediction, Trubisky
Jul 28, 2022; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings linebacker Za'Darius Smith. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

Perhaps we should thankful that Za’Darius Smith at least has a chance to play. The former-Packer didn’t participate in practice on Wednesday or Thursday, but he got some limited work in today. The team has thus listed him as being questionable for Sunday’s Saints game. If he can play, the Vikings’ pass rush has a greater chance of putting together a dominant day.

Coming into the season, there was a ton of optimism for what Danielle Hunter could do across from Smith. I predicted they’d combine for 30 sacks. Having two elite edge rushers puts the opposition in the unenviable position of needing to corral players capable of winning their one-on-one matchups with consistency.

Losing Smith may take the wind out of Minnesota’s defensive sails. He has one of the best PFF grades on the Vikings’ roster with a 77.7 grade. That’s a number that puts him at 25th overall among 102 edge rushers.

The Vikings will need to prepare for life without one of their best options in the pass rush. D.J. Wonnum and Patrick Jones II will likely get a lot more reps. Luiji Vilain may also get the opportunity to get some snaps.

It looks like the team will be without Andrew Booth Jr. It’s unfortunate that the rookie has had to navigate the health issues at such an early point in his career (not that there’s ever a good time to get hurt). Hopefully, he’s still been able to take plenty of mental reps, thus helping him prepare for getting back onto the field when he’s healthy.

Otherwise, perhaps the most notable detail of the injury report is that Dalvin Cook looks like he’s ready to go. Forced to guess, I’d still say we’ll get a lot of Alexander Mattison. In fact, I’m expecting Minnesota’s RB2 to get most of the carries, but we’ll need to see how things shake out on game day.

New Orleans is dealing with their own injuries (as we discussed a bit earlier). WR Michael Thomas, S Marcus Maye, and OL Andrus Peat are out. QB Jameis Winston is doubtful and RB Alvin Kamara is questionable.

The Vikings – like every other team in the NFL – will have a much easier time playing strong defense if their pass rush can impact the QB. Hopefully, Hunter is able to play a lot of snaps and make an impact when he’s out there. Even if Smith only comes in on obvious passing downs, it could make a sizable difference.