Vikings defensive backs Harrison Smith and Cameron Dantzler left Monday night's loss to the Eagles in the second half, though only one was injury related.
Smith was evaluated for a concussion, and head coach Kevin O'Connell confirmed after the game that he did suffer one. That puts the veteran's status for next Sunday's game against the Lions into question. Smith led the Vikings with 13 tackles before departing.
"Looking at the way he checked out, talking to (medical leaders) Tyler (Williams) and Uriah (Myrie), we feel pretty strongly about where he’s at," O'Connell said. "But we’ll go through the phasing, it’s very very important that that gets handled medically, through the protocol. It is a short week so we’ll just kind of have to see where he’s at.
He’s one of our guys, one of our leaders, and not one time did you ever feel like Harrison wasn’t leading the way out there, but unfortunately we did lose him. We’ll see how he is throughout the rest of the week."
Rookie safety Lewis Cine saw a few defensive snaps in his NFL debut, as did third-year safety Josh Metellus, who is primarily a core special teams player. Some combination of that duo would handle the snaps opposite Camryn Bynum if Smith, the team's longest-tenured player, can't get cleared to play against Detroit.
Dantzler leaving the game in the second half was interesting, because he seemed to play pretty well and it wasn't a total blowout, even if the Vikings trailed by three scores for the entire half.
Rookie Akayleb Evans came into the game to replace him. The Vikings never reported any injury for Dantzler.
"I just know we had talked about maybe getting Akayleb some time here and there," O'Connell said. "I think just the way the game was kind of going, it felt like a time where the defensive guys wanted to get him a few snaps."
O'Connell said he still views Dantzler as a starter for the Vikings.
"Cam’s, in my mind, still our starting corner. It was just a matter of getting a guy, a young player, time, that we feel like has earned the right to get on the field here and there, either by package, dime or whatever it may be, or get him in there on some of those early downs."
It's an interesting situation. Evans is a fourth-round rookie and Dantzler is a third-year player with plenty of experience, but Evans was brought in by the Vikings' new regime and Dantzler wasn't. Could this turn into a rotation of sorts? And how will the eventual return of Andrew Booth Jr., who was drafted two rounds higher than Evans, impact things? Booth missed this game with a quad injury.
Dantzler had an up-and-down game that seemingly had more good than bad. In the second quarter, he had an eventful stretch where he had a tackle for no gain, a tackle for loss, an illegal contact penalty called against him, and an impressive pass breakup in the span of five plays.
However, that came after he was involved in a coverage bust on the Eagles' 53-yard touchdown pass to Quez Watkins to begin the second quarter. It's unclear if Dantzler or Bynum is the one who messed up on that play.
"It looked like they nailed down our safety in a quarters look," O'Connell said on the play. "I kind of caught the very end of it there. That’s what happens when you get the coverage to kind of declare a little bit with the run game thrown in there."
We'll see if we get any further answers on that play or on Dantzler later in the week, but we may have to wait and see if his role changes at all on Sunday.
As for Smith, that'll be a waiting game as well. The short week could make it tough for him to be cleared, depending on the severity of his concussion.
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