Yesterday, we discussed the possibility of the Vikings reactivating rookie RB Ty Chandler with the end of his 21-day practice window coming to an end. On Wednesday afternoon, the decision was made, and the Vikings rookie RB is back.
Additionally, the Vikings have designated TE Irv Smith Jr. to return to practice, opening his own 21-day window. Smith has been on IR with a high ankle sprain, but Kevin O’Connell has been hinting at his possible return for a few weeks now. Today, this hypothetical takes another step towards becoming a reality as he returns to the practice field.
Smith has been projected to have breakout seasons for a couple years now, but injuries have derailed that from happening. Last season, Smith’s year ended before it could even begin after he suffered a torn meniscus in the final preseason game. In his stead, Tyler Conklin had a breakout season of his own, and this past offseason, earned a lucrative deal with the New York Jets.
This year, Smith has been out since Week 8 when he suffered a high ankle sprain against the Arizona Cardinals. The injury was expected to hold the tight end out for anywhere from 6-10 weeks, and we are currently within that timeframe for him to return.
After the injury occurred, the Vikings obviously went out and made the trade to acquire T.J. Hockenson from the Detroit Lions, giving them a bonafide top-10 player at the tight end position. Since then, Hockenson has fit into the Vikings offense beautifully, including a 13-catch performance in Week 16 against the Giants. Now, there seems to be a good chance that the Vikings have a pair of dyanmic tight ends going into the playoffs with Hockenson and Smith.
As for Chandler, his return bolsters a Vikings backfield that, down the stretch of the regular season, could see both Dalvin Cook and Alexander Mattison take a step back. If the Vikings earn a victory at Lambeau Field this weekend, and the 49ers fall to the Raiders, Week 18 against the Chicago Bears becomes a meaningless game for the Vikings.
Should this scenario play out, there’s a very good chance that the Vikings rest their starters for that game, and we could see Chandler become RB1 for that game. First, though, Minnesota needs to get a win in Week 17.
Josh Frey is a Class of 2020 graduate of The College of Idaho with a bachelor’s degree in Creative Writing. He also earned minors in History, Human Biology, and Journalism. When he’s not writing about the NFL, Josh enjoys marathon training, playing video games, or rooting for the Milwaukee Brewers and Bucks. For more of his opinions, check out his Twitter account: @Freyed_Chicken.