“We did confirm via MRI that Dean Lowry did sustain a pec tear,” head coach Kevin O’Connell said in a November 20 news conference. “He’ll have to have that surgically repaired, and he will go on IR in the short term here.”
Lowry is eligible to return from injured reserve after four games, but considering the tear is severe enough to require surgery and its timing, Lowry is likely done for the season. Danielle Hunter and Anthony Barr suffered similar pectoral tears that required surgery and were shut down for the season in 2021 and 2020, respectively.
A 2016 fourth-round pick by the Green Bay Packers, Lowry spent seven seasons in Green Bay before signing a two-year, $8.5 million deal with the Vikings in the offseason. His contract was the fourth-largest move the Vikings made in free agency. He’s made $27.4 million in his career total.
Lowry has played in nine games and made four starts this season. Rookie Jaquelin Roy and Khyiris Tonga will be leaned on to fill Lowry’s role on the defensive front entering the final weeks of the season.
Vikings Must Manage Without Dean Lowry
While Lowry was a priority free agent this spring, his usage in Brian Flores’ defense has tapered off in recent weeks.
After playing 225 defensive snaps through seven weeks, Lowry suffered a groin injury in Week 8 against the Packers. He played just three snaps that game and had missed the previous two games before Week 11.
Tonga and Roy have rotated in Lowry’s role since, although it pales in comparison to the usage of fellow defensive interior linemen Harrison Phillips (541 defensive snaps) and Jonathan Bullard (374 snaps).
Lowry ranked 157th among 194 defensive tackles this season with a 47.4 defensive grade by Pro Football Focus (PFF). Tonga ranks 132nd with a 52.6 grade, while Roy ranks 84th with a 60.0 grade in their limited action this season.
Where Vikings Could Lean on Khyiris Tonga, Jaquelin Roy
Through 11 weeks, the Vikings’ greatest strength has been stopping the run. Minnesota has allowed 3.4 yards per rush this season, which ranks fourth in the NFL — and the run game could improve if Tonga sees the field more.
At 6-foot-4, 337 pounds, Tonga is one of the team’s best run-stuffers. While PFF grade doesn’t reflect it as his strength, Tonga hasn’t missed a tackle yet this season across 99 defensive snaps.
Wrapping up well on the defensive front is a trait Flores has valued this season with Phillips and Bullard proving to be reliable tacklers who hold their spot on the line.
The Vikings may look to Tonga for more help in the running game while Roy slots in as a situational interior pass-rusher.