Vikings Announce the Absence of a Pair of Players Ahead of Pivotal SNF Game

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Green Bay Packers
Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

The Vikings announce the news, but most of the team’s fans are still feeling good about the chances of victory. After all, Minnesota has won five consecutive games. Nevertheless, it’s still worth noting that pushing the win total up to a lucky number — 7 — will need to come without the services of a pair of important players.

Starting corner Akayleb Evans isn’t going to be able to put on the pads on Sunday Night Football. The defense will hand things over to a combination of Mekhi Blackmon and Andrew Booth Jr. to pickup the slack at corner (with the rookie Blackmon being more likely to get huge snaps). Jaren Hall isn’t going to be available, either. The rookie will get more time to climb back up to full health, though he is moving in the right direction.

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Green Bay Packers
Oct 29, 2023; Green Bay, Wisconsin, USA; Minnesota Vikings cornerback Mekhi Blackmon (5) breaks up a pass intended for Green Bay Packers wide receiver Christian Watson (9) in the game at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Tork Mason-USA TODAY Sports

Of course, Minnesota’s injury troubles don’t stop at just two players (as we’ve been able to see during the week). Josh Dobbs, Dean Lowry, T.J. Hockenson, and K.J. Osborn are ready to roll after being involved in the injury reports earlier in the week. That’s the good news. The not-as-good news is that Alexander Mattison, Nick Mullens, Chris Reed, Brian Asamoah, and Justin Jefferson are all questionable.

Mullens is yet to be activated off of the IR, but the head coach was optimistic about him being available. He’d slide into the QB2 role.

Moreover, Reed appears to be back to complete health since he has been able to practice fully. He has been on the Non-Football Injury list since the summer. Getting him back would mean more formidable iOL depth since the veteran Reed can play all three positions.

Vikings Announce Absence of Hall, Evans, & Several Other Designations

Seeing Alexander Mattison listed as questionable is somewhat of a surprise. He suffered a concussion in Week 10, so it would be a quick turnaround to be able to play in Week 11. If he can’t go, then Chandler is going to be the main man. Chandler should be up to the task.

NFL: New Orleans Saints at Minnesota Vikings
Nov 12, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Ty Chandler (32) scores on a touchdown run as New Orleans Saints defensive tackle Khalen Saunders (99) looks on during the second quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

In Week 10 against the Saints, Chandler had 15 carries go for 45 yards and a touchdown (with a 13-yard scamper being the longest run of his day). Now, the running back did have a long touchdown run — 29 yards, by my count — called back due to a penalty from Brian O’Neill. The point is simply that the stats could have been much gaudier.

Truth be told, the Vikings are at least somewhat concerned about Mattison’s production. Averaging just 3.5 yards per carry isn’t excellent, folks. And while Mattison offers a lot to like, the running efficiency does need to improve, especially since Minnesota is now leaning on someone who is technically their QB4 (though, in fairness, he has been playing like a QB1).

Nov 5, 2023; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Joshua Dobbs (15) and running back Alexander Mattison (2) react after combining on a touchdown pass against the Atlanta Falcons during the first half at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Not having Evans for the defense is difficult news, especially since the Vikings have already had to start working toward a solution for the Jordan Hicks absence.

The sophomore is the most physically imposing option in coverage. Standing at 6’2″, 198, Evans helps Minnesota’s defense matchup with someone like Courtland Sutton, a Denver receiver who is standing at 6’4″ and tipping the scales at 216 pounds.

Blackmon has been having a very promising rookie season, playing some nice football as a backup corner. The safest bet would be that he gets the start on Sunday, but Booth has also gotten some run in the Flores defense. Currently, the snap discrepancy tilts pretty heavily in favor of the rookie: 201 defensive snaps for Blackmon versus 69 defensive snaps for Booth.

Aug 10, 2023; Seattle, Washington, USA; Minnesota Vikings cornerback Mekhi Blackmon (11) and Minnesota Vikings cornerback Andrew Booth Jr. (23) talk during warmups prior to the game at Lumen Field. Mandatory Credit: Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

There hasn’t been too much recent evidence to suggest the trend won’t continue, but expect to see both corners on the field.

Dobbs will have the benefit of being able to continue throwing to his favorite target, Mr. T.J. Hockenson. The tight end has been proving his toughness, working through noticeable pain over these past couple games. He has found instant chemistry with the Vikings’ new quarterback, so having Hockenson on the field is a major plus for Kevin O’Connell.

Re-adding K.J. Osborn into the offense should only help, especially since Jalen Nailor just came back last week. The only thing that’s missing, of course, is Jefferson. And while Vikings fans shouldn’t expect to see #18 on the field, there’s at least some optimism about his prognosis since he’s questionable.

The Vikings and Broncos game begins at 7:20 p.m. CST at Mile High.

Editor’s Note: Information from Pro Football Reference helped with this piece.

K. Joudry is the Senior Editor for Vikings Territory and PurplePTSD. He has been covering the Vikings full time since the summer of 2021. He can be found on Twitter and as a co-host for Notes from the North, a humble Vikings podcast.