Sep 7 2019; Blacksburg, Virginia, USA; Virginia Tech Hokies running back Keshawn King 935) celebrates his first touchdown with Christian Darrisaw (77) in the first period against the Old Dominion Monarchs at Lane Stadium. Mandatory credit: Lee Luther Jr.-USA TODAY Sports
For the first time in 2021, Minnesota Vikings rookie left tackle Christian Darrisaw is completely healthy, at least according to the team’s injury report.
#CLEVMIN injury report
OUT: Ihmir Smith-Marsette
ASK: Anthony Barr, Kris Boyd, Dalvin Cook, Michael Pierce
— Minnesota Vikings (@Vikings) October 1, 2021
General Manager Rick Spielman drafted Darrisaw with the 23rd overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft after coming back from 14th pick in a deal that put Wyatt Davis and Kellen Mond on the roster. Immediately, Darrisaw was theorized as the team’s LT1 because veteran Riley Reiff was released in March. He ended up with the Cincinnati Bengals.
But Darrisaw’s rookie progression over the summer was almost nonexistent. He didn’t see much action, indicating that an injury was still lingering. Then, out of the blue, Darrisaw opted for a second surgery to cure a nagging groin ailment. Ergo, Darrisaw hasn’t taken a regular season photo so far — or even a preseason one.
That will soon change.
However, Darrisaw is not planned as the LT1 at this time. He is the LT2 behind veteran backup Rashod Hill. Head coach Mike Zimmer is notorious for slow rolling rookies in game time, and Darrisaw seems no exception. Hell, even Justin Jefferson needed three games in 2020 to get ahead. Don’t expect Darrisaw to see a few weeks of intense action according to Zimmer’s modus operandi.
And, you know, there are the words from the horse’s mouth. Offensive coordinator Klint Kubiak confirmed Hill’s hold on the left tackle lane is secure – for now.
#vikings offensive coordinator Klint Kubiak said Rashod Hill is definitely the starting left tackle: “Rashod is our man.”
— Chris Tomasson (@christomasson) September 30, 2021
That’s the cliché of confidence, but it’s notable because it sends a vivid signal that Darrisaw won’t start against the Cleveland Browns in Week 4. It will take a while.
Hill won’t last long if the starting left tackle is too long. The unit performs surprisingly well, but it’s not a Hill-driven success. For three weeks, Hill is the NFL’s third-worst tackle Pro Football Focus.
So it’s not like Darrisaw is knocking on Trent Williams’ door here. In other words, Wyatt Davis won’t be taking over Oli Udoh anytime soon. Udoh plays great. Hill not.
Plus, Darrisaw is a first-round talent. He should already have started. Still, the injuries prevented his maturation for the first month of the season.
Once Darrisaw gets his moment in the Vikings’ line of attack, the quintet is practically a brand new bunch. From left to right: Darrisaw, Ezra Cleveland, Garrett Bradbury, Oli Udoh and Brian O’Neill is a source of new hope. Before this concoction, the Vikings had always cobbled together an improvised solution, resulting in one of the worst in the league in pass protection. That is slowly changing in Minnesota. Here’s the proof:
Team Pass Block Number + Rank,
Since 2014 per @PFF:
2014: 72.4 (23rd)
2015: 67.9 (28th)
2016: 64.7 (30th)
2017: 71.9 (17th)
2018: 63.6 (27th)
2019: 63.0 (27th)
2020: 55.5 (29th)
* 2021: 59.5 (16th)
* up to 3 wks
Apologies for messing up the first one with PB ‘efficiency’.
— Dustin Baker (@DustBaker) September 27, 2021
Ever since Kirk Cousins joined the franchise in 2018, fans have been clamoring for pass protection to be at its worst. It didn’t happen in 2018, 2019 or 2020. Fast forward to 2021, and the atmosphere is different.
When the Rashod Hill era dries up, the addition of Darrisaw only increases the OL potential.
And his absence from the injury report – for the first time – is a tip of the veil that he is close to making his debut.
Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007 host a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawho and Sally from Minneapolis. His Viking fandom dates back to 1996. Guilty pleasures listed: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos’ and The Doors (the band).