After making his NFL debut at left tackle last week, Vikings first-round pick Christian Darrisaw should continue to improve as he gains more experience and shakes off the rust of dealing with a groin injury for nearly all of the last calendar year.
Veteran Rashod Hill started at LT in Week 5 against the Lions, but Darrisaw came in for the third offensive series of the game and the two rotated the rest of the way. Hill wound up playing 39 offensive snaps to Darrisaw's 28. With the rookie having another week of practice under his belt, it sounds like that distribution may flip this Sunday against the Panthers.
"Vikings rookie left tackle Christian Darrisaw could start [his] first game Sunday at Carolina," tweeted Chris Tomasson of the Pioneer Press. "Source said a plan this week has been for Darrisaw to play 'most' or 'all' snaps vs. Panthers."
Plans can change, but there appears to be a good chance of Darrisaw getting the start on Sunday and perhaps playing the majority of the snaps if he's holding his own. The Vikings' coaches might play it by ear to an extent, so there may be a chance of Darrisaw getting the entire game at LT if he's playing well.
However, that's going to be easier said than done against one of the best edge rusher duos in the NFL. Carolina's Haason Reddick and Brian Burns have combined for 29 pressures and 9.5 sacks in five games this season. Lining up against either one on every snap will be an awfully tough task for a rookie with fewer than 30 NFL snaps to his name.
But Darrisaw was a first-round pick for a reason, and showed some of his immense potential against the Lions by anchoring well and playing with plenty of power. He had some ups and downs, including some missed blocks in the run game, but he clearly has far more upside than a struggling career backup like Hill.
Darrisaw is just happy that he's finally over the groin injury, which required multiple surgical procedures this offseason, and is back to playing football.
“It was amazing, just the process of just going through everything," he said. "Just trying to figure out 'When would this all be over with and could I go out and play?’ We’re finally here, so it’s time to go.
"I’ve been learning the mental things of the game and everything that comes with it. Even if you have a bad play, great play … you’ve just got to move on and attack the next play. That’s the mindset you’ve got to have in this league."
Darrisaw said he'll be ready for whatever role the coaches give him this week. If he can hold up against Burns and Reddick in however many opportunities he gets, it would go a long way towards helping the Vikings get a much-needed win and potentially establishing himself as the clear starter at left tackle after the bye week.
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