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Vikings Snap Counts vs. Saints: Za'Darius Smith Limited With Knee Injury

Breaking down what we can learn from the Vikings' offensive and defensive snap counts in London.

Za'Darius Smith, arguably the Vikings' most impactful defensive player this season, entered Sunday's game in London with a questionable designation because of a knee injury. He wound up playing, but the Vikings made it clear that he wasn't near 100 percent by limiting his role significantly.

Smith still managed to make an impact with a first quarter sack that ended a Saints possession, despite appearing to get held on the play. The Vikings will be hoping that he can play more of a full-time role next Sunday against the Bears, because they need him out there as much as possible.

Let's look at the snap counts from this victory over the Saints to see what we can learn.

Vikings offensive snap counts vs. New Orleans (out of 72)

  • QB Kirk Cousins: 72
  • RT Brian O'Neill: 72
  • RG Ed Ingram: 72
  • LG Ezra Cleveland: 72
  • C Garrett Bradbury: 72
  • LT Christian Darrisaw: 72
  • WR Adam Thielen: 70
  • WR Justin Jefferson: 68
  • WR K.J. Osborn: 61
  • TE Irv Smith Jr: 46
  • RB Dalvin Cook: 45
  • RB Alexander Mattison: 27
  • TE Johnny Mundt: 20
  • TE Ben Ellefson: 10
  • FB C.J. Ham: 9
  • WR Jalen Reagor: 3
  • WR Jalen Nailor: 1

No. 3 receiver K.J. Osborn has seen his snaps increase in every game this season, from 42 to 47 to 54 to 61. That's not a perfect way to look at it because the Vikings' total offensive snaps have fluctuated, but Osborn's snap share also peaked this week at roughly 85 percent. Kevin O'Connell and the Vikings appear to be leaning more and more on 11 personnel, with Osborn out there as a nearly full-time player. He's proven that he has not only the receiving ability, but the run blocking chops required to handle that role. I'd imagine we'll see more of the same moving forward.

Another player whose snaps have gone up every week is tight end Irv Smith Jr., from 19 to 34 to 37 to 46. That's a logical progression when you consider that Smith missed a big chunk of training camp with a thumb injury. Still, it's notable that Smith is being used more and more while Johnny Mundt played a season-low 20 snaps on Sunday. Mundt, who had a critical drop on his only target, is primarily a blocker again after seeing decent route involvement in the first two games.

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Alexander Mattison still has a decent role spelling Dalvin Cook, and Mattison scored his third career receiving touchdown to open the scoring. Also of note is that in addition to making his first career catch on a fake punt, Jalen Nailor played the first offensive snap of his NFL career in London.

Vikings defensive snap counts vs. New Orleans (out of 60)

  • S Camryn Bynum: 60
  • CB Patrick Peterson: 60
  • S Harrison Smith: 58
  • LB Eric Kendricks: 55
  • CB Cameron Dantzler: 54
  • LB Jordan Hicks: 53
  • OLB Danielle Hunter: 51
  • SCB Chandon Sullivan: 45
  • DT Dalvin Tomlinson: 44
  • OLB D.J. Wonnum: 42
  • DT Harrison Phillips: 40
  • OLB Za'Darius Smith: 24
  • DT Jonathan Bullard: 17
  • DT James Lynch: 16
  • OLB Patrick Jones II: 13
  • DT Ross Blacklock: 11
  • CB Akayleb Evans: 5
  • LB Troy Dye: 5
  • S Josh Metellus: 4
  • CB Kris Boyd: 2
  • S Lewis Cine: 1

Smith's aforementioned injury limited him to 24 snaps, by far a season-low. D.J. Wonnum was the beneficiary, playing a season-high 42 snaps. Patrick Jones II saw no change to his role.

Several Vikings defensive players got banged up over the course of this game, resulting in depth players being needed for a handful of snaps. Eric Kendricks, Cameron Dantzler, and Harrison Smith all briefly left the game, but it sounds like all three will be OK. Smith took a shot to his, uh, midsection late in the game.

Akayleb Evans is still the No. 3 outside corner, but we'll see if that changes when Andrew Booth Jr. eventually returns. Unsurprisingly, Troy Dye is ahead of rookie Brian Asamoah on the depth chart at linebacker.

The Vikings' two best defensive players in this game were Dantzler and Dalvin Tomlinson. Dantzler was excellent in coverage, breaking up three passes, while Tomlinson thrived in the middle of the front with a strip-sack and several run stops.

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