Christian Darrisaw’s First NFL Snaps Came Under Strange Circumstances, But Were Promising Nonetheless

Christian Darrisaw / Wyatt Davis
Vikings rookies, including defensemen Christian Darrisaw, front left, and Wyatt Davis practice during NFL football rookie minicamp Friday, May 14, 2021, in Eagan, Minn. (Elizabeth Flores/Star Tribune via AP)

This past weekend, first-round draft pick, Christian Darrisaw, got his first chance at playing left tackle with the Minnesota Vikings offense. After missing most of training camp and all of preseason with a groin injury, it was truly the first time fans got a chance to see what the No. 23 pick could do at the NFL level.

Per usual, Rashod Hill got the start at LT, but very soon into the game, the Vikings decided it was time for the Virginia Tech alumnus to get into the game. Darrisaw saw action to start the second quarter on Minnesota’s third offensive drive of the game. That series left the rookie largely unscathed, and the Vikings drove down the field for a touchdown.

It seemed the reign of terror that Rashod Hill had held at left tackle was over. However, as the Vikings offense trotted onto the field to begin the second half, it was Hill who joined them. In an almost comedic occasion, on the very first snap, Hill allowed a sack to Trey Flowers. The sack killed Minnesota’s momentum, and they punted.

Shuffling snaps by possession is one of the more unique forms of breaking in a rookie offensive lineman. It’s not something I’ve ever seen before, but following the game, Mike Zimmer confirmed that this was the plan going in. It makes sense as Darrisaw has seen action in just 12 practices to this point, and as aforementioned, no game time. Especially after seeing his approach with star receiver Justin Jefferson last year, it’s not unexpected for Zimmer to be cautious when breaking rookies into the NFL.

That said, in the amount of game time that he got this Sunday, Darrisaw looked extremely ready to play NFL football. He and Hill had a very similar snap count, Darrisaw with 28 and Hill with 39. By no means was he perfect, but the rookie clearly outperformed his counterpart this week. Darrisaw allowed zero pressures on the day compared to Hill’s two, including the sack.

PFF also agrees that Darrisaw played better than Hill, albeit still to a level of mediocrity. They graded Darrisaw at 60.0 and Hill at 54.2, respectively. Purely looking at this week’s PFF grades would undersell just how much Darrisaw outperformed Hill this week, though. For one, this was one of Hill’s better days as a player. Through five weeks, PFF now gives Hill a meager grade of 39.9. Darrisaw’s 60 looks so much better when that is taken into consideration.

Darrisaw didn’t need to be perfect, and by no means was he, but he looked exactly like the type of player that he was scouted to be in college. He looks very much ready to take over duties in pass protection, and while he did get beat a couple times, they did not cause any impact on the play. A couple mistakes are to be expected from a rookie in his debut, especially when he isn’t getting consistent snaps. However, he still showed all the speed, athleticism, and power that he displayed at Virginia Tech.

It’s also worth noting that his fellow rookie offensive lineman, Penei Sewell, has had great struggles to begin his NFL career in Detroit. Of course, Sewell is in a circumstance where he has mostly been playing right tackle, a new position for him, but this past week gave him a chance at his natural left tackle position. Darrisaw should be taking starting left tackle snaps soon, and if he plays anything like he did this past Sunday, the Vikings nailed their pick.