Being a rookie in the NFL is never easy, no one expects it to be easy from a front office perspective but from a fan perspective they may have different expectations.
When a team is considered close, or on the turn then that’s when the expectations of a fanbase soar for rookies including first-round picks, that is the perfect storm Vikings fans are facing.
This team signed Kirk Cousins what seems like ages ago but in reality, it will only be his fourth season with the team and it was four seasons ago that Rick Spielman and Mike Zimmer thought they were one piece away. We know in hindsight that it was not that simple after injuries and trades this team is still a few pieces away but they have one big piece that may get things back on track quickly.
Blue Chip Scouting’s Mike Hrynyshyn helped kick start the Christian Darrisaw hype last spring and from there he had a successful junior season and then declared for the draft. He entered the draft knowing the teams in need of tackles and he was being mocked in the top end of round one so where he would end up was anyone’s guess, that is where the Vikings old-fashioned draft luck kicked in.
The Vikings ended up trading back and still were able to grab Christian Darrisaw but for a player of his magnitude what should expectations be?
Week One “Warm Up”, Week Two Wake Up
Week one the Vikings will be traveling to Cincinnati to face the Bengals and they have a revamped defense from an active free agency period that includes signed defensive end Trey Hendrickson. Hendrickson is a formidable edge rusher but I will give the advantage to Darrisaw on a fun opening welcome to the NFL game, the dream turns into a nightmare through the following week.
Week two they travel to Arizona to face another revamped defense that is now headlined by Chandler Jones and new arrival J.J. Watt. That duo alone has accounted for 198 sacks in their two hall of fame careers and for Darrisaw things should be expected to get dicey.
He isn’t perfect and as a Viking fan you shouldn’t expect perfection but what should be expected is a serviceable game from Darrisaw and if that happens then we should see some confidence jumping week to week.
A Bumpy Road to a Bye Week
Before a week seven bye the Vikings and Darrisaw will be facing several big-name and top-end edge rushers who may fry Vikings fan’s nerves before it’s all over. Names like Carlos Dunlap, Myles Garrett, Trey Flowers, and Brian Burns in consecutive weeks will allow Darrisaw to know what works and won’t work as his college game transitions to the NFL.
The best part is the bye comes before things get even dicier from a schedule standpoint so that will also allow for any adjustments Darrisaw and offensive line coach Rick Dennison. Dennison has proven to be a reliable coach by forming Brian O’Neill into the reliable player he is today as well as Garrett Bradbury so fans and honestly Darrisaw himself should be happy they are together.
Long Stretch to a Hopeful Playoff Birth
Record predictions for the Vikings have been all over the place, records of 14-3 to 5-12 have been thrown out and around on Twitter and media but the common denominator in all that? The post-bye week schedule and the quality of the offensive line play.
No team’s success is going to be tied to the success of the offensive line like the Vikings will be this upcoming year and it’s the long stretch from week eight to week eighteen that is going to cause that.
Darrisaw and company will have to face names like Demarcus Lawrence, Joey Bosa, Nick Bosa, T.J. Watt, and Khalil Mack…twice.
All those names I mentioned are All-Pros at the position, all those names are Pro Bowlers, and all those names are even hall of famers down the road potentially. The good thing is though that I truly believe this offensive line with Darrisaw now anchoring the left side can handle this baptism by fire.
To quote one NFC North quarterback, fans and media are going to have to “R-E-L-A-X” because again things will be tough and honestly they will be a rollercoaster. There will be weeks Darrisaw blows us away with his play, there will be weeks he looks like a rookie too but that what needs to be remembered is that he is in fact a rookie.