Tank Time? More Bad News Arrives for Vikings’ Health Ahead of Week 18

NFL: New Orleans Saints at Minnesota Vikings
Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Well, maybe a loss wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world. After all, the final injury report of the week contains more bad news for the Vikings’ health (or lack thereof).

Corner Byron Murphy Jr. will miss another game, meaning the Vikings will have operated without their top corner for the final three weeks of the season. Making matters even worse is that Mekhi Blackmon — at this point, Minnesota’s CB2 — will also miss the game.

NFL: New Orleans Saints at Minnesota Vikings
Nov 12, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings cornerback Mekhi Blackmon (5) celebrates his interception with his team against the New Orleans Saints in the fourth quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Akayleb Evans is once again going to be the team’s top corner. The issue is that he has been borderline unplayable recently. The Packers intentionally picked on the sophomore all game and were rewarded for doing so. Evans finished his day having allowed 7/10 passes to be completed for 119 yards. He missed 3 tackles.

Minnesota will thus be leaning on a corner whose confidence looks to be gone alongside Andrew Booth Jr. and then (very likely) some practice squad call ups in Jaylin Williams and/or Joejuan Williams.

More Bad News for the Vikings’ Health

Folks, the bad news doesn’t stop there.

The Vikings won’t have the help of Brian O’Neill up front. The starting right tackle has only been available for 14 games in 2023, missing the pair of losses in Week 15 and Week 16. David Quessenberry will hop into the starting lineup (where he has done a nice job, all things considered).

Brian O'Neill
Oct 2, 2022; London, United Kingdom; Minnesota Vikings offensive tackle Brian O’Neill (75) during the NFL International Series game at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Peter van den Berg-USA TODAY Sports

For simplicity, take a look at the full list of injury designations for Minnesota (official announcement):

  • Byron Murphy, Out
  • Mekhi Blackmon, Out
  • Theo Jackson, Out
  • Jaquelin Roy, Out
  • Jalen Nailor, Out
  • Brian O’Neill, Out
  • Christian Darrisaw, Questionable
  • Ed Ingram, Questionable

Nick Mullens is going to be the main man when it comes to flinging the pigskin. There’s a chance that he’s fighting for his spot as Minnesota’s QB2 of the future. The team genuinely does like Jaren Hall and wants to rally around his upside as he continues developing.

Mullens, then, could end up in a precarious spot if Kirk Cousins gets a new deal and then Minnesota opts for a QB in the upcoming draft. Putting together an excellent effort amidst all of the injury turmoil would function as a good reminder for why he should stick around in 2024.

Dec 24, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Nick Mullens (12) reacts while being chased by Detroit Lions linebacker Alex Anzalone (34) during the second quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Far be it from me to tell Mullens how to do his job, but one would assume that sending the ball in Justin Jefferson’s direction would be a good place to start.

The WR1 is 118 yards away from hitting 1,000 yards in 2023. Getting him to the milestone would be a wise move given that the franchise is looking to keep their cornerstone player happy.

Mullens is sitting on 67.3% passing, 910 yards, 5 TDs, and 6 INTs going into Week 18. He’ll have a tough time improving on those numbers if he doesn’t look to Jefferson early and often, especially with the turmoil at offensive tackle.

NFL: Detroit Lions at Minnesota Vikings
Dec 24, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson (18) celebrates his touchdown against the Detroit Lions during the second quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

Kickoff between the Vikings and Lions will take place at 12 p.m. CST. Dropping the game will mean Minnesota sits at 7-10 and with a chance of securing a top-10 selection in the 2024 NFL Draft.

Editor’s Note: Information from Pro Football Reference and PFF 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.