Everyone has spent the last 24 hours analyzing the Vikings’ performance against the Packers as a whole. Instead of doing that, I want to break down just one little section of this game. Of the Vikings’ ten rookies on their roster, six of them got playing time in week one. Let’s talk about how their NFL debuts went!
Dantzler is the only rookie that got a start for the Vikings, and being part of the cornerback unit that got torched, he is receiving a lot of criticism for how week one went. The criticism is warranted.
Dantzler played 64 of the 78 defensive snaps, and he recorded four tackles. However, he allowed all seven of his targets to be completed for 81 yards and a touchdown, according to Pro Football Focus.
Even with his week one struggles, there is plenty of reason to be hopeful for the future. Dantzler was considered one of the top cornerback prospects coming out of the 2019 college football season, but his stock dropped after a disappointing combine showing where he reportedly put on weight, leading to a slower 40 time. This article on the Daily Norseman breaks down the process that led to Dantzler being a third round pick.
Gladney may have been a first round pick by the Vikings, but he only got nine defensive snaps in week one. Fellow rookie, Dantzler, played the most snaps of any cornerback on Sunday.
It wasn’t as if the other defensive backs were shutting down Green Bay’s receivers, though. Zimmer must utilize his first round talent more in his defensive schemes. Gladney was USA Today’s fourth ranked cornerback going into the draft this spring, so he should be receiving more playing time next week against Indianapolis.
Dye is the only other defensive rookie who got snaps in week one. The fourth round pick didn’t see playing time on the actual defense, but he did play 17 snaps on special teams.
Dye was an intrical part of the Oregon Ducks defense when he was in college, leading the team in tackles all four of his years. He was unable to get a true evaluation before the draft due to a January knee injury, and his stock fell to the point where he was available in the fourth round.
The Vikings are extremely deep at linebacker, so it may take some time for Dye to establish himself a chunk of defensive playing time, but his potential is certainly there for years to come.
Chisena is one of the feel-good stories for the Vikings this year. An undrafted free agent out of Penn State, he is a wide receiver, but the Vikings want him because of his abilities on special teams and work ethic. Chisena earned himself 17 snaps on special teams, and he may not be a flashy playmaker for the Vikings, but now you’ll root for him whenever you see him out on the field.
Osborn is another guy that the Vikings kept on the roster mainly for special teams efforts. A fifth round pick out of Miami, he showed out as a returner in week one. He returned two kicks for an average of 32 yards per return, and with his good speed, he should be a special teams threat for the rest of the season.
Jefferson is the one Vikings rookie that got playing time on the offensive side of the ball. He was the first pick in this year’s draft by the Vikings because of his excellent playmaking ability at LSU.
We didn’t get to see much of that playmaking ability from the receiver in week one. Jefferson caught two of his three targets for 26 yards. Playing behind Adam Thielen and Bisi Johnson, the targets for Jefferson will predictably be low until he proves himself more in this offense.
He lined up in the slot for 90% of his snaps with the Tigers in 2019, and that looks like it will be the role for him in Minnesota as well as long as Thielen and Johnson are there. This will at least bring some comfort to the rookie, and I would expect him to assert himself against the weaker pass defenses of Indianapolis and Houston over the next few weeks.