Key Vikings Starter Suffers Injury, Questionable Ahead of Season Opener

Getty Head coach Kevin O’Connell of the Minnesota Vikings watches action prior to a game against the Green Bay Packers in January 2023.

The Minnesota Vikings could be down an edge rusher entering Sunday’s season opener.

After a clean bill of health through the week, edge rusher Marcus Davenport landed on Friday’s injury report with an ankle issue that leaves him questionable just days before the team’s season opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Signed in the offseason after five years with the New Orleans Saints, Davenport’s debut with the Vikings could be deferred.

The 14th overall pick of the 2018 draft, Davenport signed a one-year, $13 million prove-it deal with the Vikings. Injuries plagued Davenport’s career in New Orleans. He’s missed 14 games and never played more than 532 snaps in a single season.

Davenport, 27, still has a handful of years of his prime left, making him a potential upside signing if he can stay on the field.

Vikings coach Kevin O’Connell told media on Friday that Davenport was limited in practice as a precaution for an injury he sustained on Thursday. O’Connell said the team will monitor Davenport, but he is optimistic Davenport will play Sunday.

Marcus Davenport Among NFL’s Most Efficient Edge Rushers

Courtesy of VikingsMarcus Davenport of the Minnesota Vikings

When Davenport is on the field, he’s proven to be among the top talents in the NFL.

Davenport’s 81.2 pass-rushing grade since the start of the 2020 season ranks 22nd among the 104 edge defenders who’ve logged at least 500 pass-rushing snaps over that stretch, per Pro Football Focus (PFF). His 15.1% pressure rate ranks 11th.

“Injuries once again hampered Davenport’s season, but he’s a remarkably effective pass rusher off the edge when healthy, and his talent alone could be worth the gamble in free agency – especially given the relative lack of edge rushers available,” Davenport’s bio on PFF’s free-agent big board reads. “Since he entered the league in 2018, Davenport’s 17.8% pass-rush win rate and 13.9% pressure percentage are both top-20 marks among edge defenders, and he’s also earned a very respectable 82.1 run-defense grade for his career, which ranks 16th over the span.

“Davenport has five straight campaigns grading above 70.0. The issue is that he’s yet to log 600 snaps in a single season. At the end of the day, top-20 edge defenders against the pass and run don’t reach free agency often, and while his injury list is long, it doesn’t include any devastating ligament tears.”

Vikings Defense Needs Marcus Davenport, Danielle Hunter to Thrive

Davenport and Danielle Hunter can make things much easier for a young cornerback room this season by being disruptive consistently.

Last season, the secondary sat back and allowed opposing quarterbacks to take the underneath option willingly. This year it will be different in Brian Flores’ scheme that emphasizes blitzing and man coverage.

It’s going to be a boom-or-bust defensive performance this season that should be, at the very least, more exciting to watch.

The chaos that comes with Flores’ blitz packages should benefit getting Davenport and Hunter more 1-on-1 matchups. The onus should then be on them to get to the quarterback and force the ball out quickly.

If the pass rush can achieve that consistently, there should be plenty of highs for the defense this season.

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