I tried to make this week’s mailbag London-themed, but since Jerick McKinnon wouldn’t bite when asked to test out his British accent by a TV reporter, I’m going to leave all of your tea-and-crumpets jokes here. If you read Kevin Seifert’s story, I’m not sure those are on Chef Geji’s menu this road trip.
Anyway, there’s still tons to talk about related to the Vikings trip to London, including the status of Stefon Diggs for Sunday. Diggs is listed as questionable after practicing in full on Thursday and Friday, his first time doing so in more than two weeks. If he plays against the Browns, it will be his first game back since he injured his groin in Chicago.
But how much action will Diggs see against Cleveland? That’s Part I of this week’s mailbag.
Will Diggs' involvement be minimal with a bye week looming and the running game trending ⬆️?— Christian Byrd (@Christian_Byrd) October 27, 2017
Diggs has a history with groin injuries, so I initially thought the plan could be to shut him down, let him rehab and come back after the bye in Week 10. In the last three games, Kyle Rudolph has 25 targets, McKinnon continues to be an added layer in the passing game and the rest of Diggs’ workload had been divvyed up among Jarius Wright and Laquon Treadwell.
It doesn’t look the same without Diggs out there, but they’ve been able to get by.
In his absence, the Vikings have put more weight on the run game. Minnesota rushed for 159 yards vs. Chicago, 112 yards vs. Green Bay and 169 yards vs. Baltimore.
Statistically, the Browns have the fifth-best run defense in the league, but their defense has taken a hit with injuries. On the defensive line alone, Myles Garrett is out, Larry Ogunjobi is doubtful and Trevon Coley is questionable. Another 100-plus yard performance for the duo of McKinnon and Latavius Murray is a reasonable expectation.
Because even if Diggs is back in action in Week 8, it’s hard to believe we’ll see the Week 1 version of the wide receiver.
What’s the constant phrase we’re hearing from the Vikings about Teddy Bridgewater? Their plan was always to ease him back in, not turn him loose the first day he was able to practice.
That’s what they’ve been doing with Diggs over the last week. He told reporters in London that he felt he was ready to play vs. Baltimore (even after not practicing last week), but that decision was ultimately up to the training and coaching staff. He now has a full week of practice under his belt (and somehow also sustained an ankle injury while he was injured) and is confident in his return Sunday at Twickenham Stadium.
I don’t think his impact will be minimal vs. Cleveland, but I also don’t think he’s going to be targeted 11 times, as he was against Tampa Bay. Bottom line, Diggs hasn’t played in weeks. He needs to see how it feels to make sudden movements, cut up the field, pivot and change direction, etc. The groin muscle is incredibly important for a wide receiver. That’s why Minnesota doesn’t want to risk this becoming an issue the way it was in 2016.
Last year, Diggs injured his groin in Week 4 and it bothered him the rest of the season. He couldn’t get separation from defensive backs and thus saw his targets drop down the stretch. He also sustained a knee injury and missed the Lions game and had a hip sprain in December that caused him to miss another game, a total of three in 2016.
With the bye coming in Week 9, Sunday’s game gives the Vikings a chance to see where Diggs is at with the prospect of more rest on the horizon. They’ll need him in the second half of the season, and they want the fully healthy version of their No. 1 wide receiver.
Staying on the theme of wide receivers, Part II of this mailbag deals with the sheer number the Vikings have at that position.
How long can the Vikings carry 7 receivers?— Dylon (@dmacker86) October 27, 2017
Probably not much longer.
Minnesota has been able to activate five receivers in its last few games, but outside of the clear-cut leaders (Adam Thielen in this case, since Diggs has been injured), the rest of the group hasn’t provided the offense with a consistent spark.
That depth is certainly favorable, and while they’ve used guys like Stacy Coley in the return game, there’s no denying the significant drop-off from the top of this group toward receiver No. 7.
Pretty soon the Vikings will make the determination to either activate Bridgewater off the PUP list to the 53-man roster or move him to IR for the rest of the season. With the former looking more likely, the first place the team could look to make space for him on the roster is by cutting one of their wide receivers. My educated guess is that would be someone like rookie Rodney Adams, thus getting the group down to six.