Prior to the Vikings bye week last week, the team had accrued multiple injuries that made depth on the defensive side of the ball scarce. Here is a quick list of the players who were injured and making a return this week against the Panthers in week 6:
Chris Cook (cornerback) - While recovering from a groin injury that he suffered during week 3 against the Cleveland Browns, Cook left a hole at cornerback that was filled by Marcus Sherels. Although Sherels played well in place in Cook, it will be nice for the team to have Cook’s size and speed available. It will also help to limit snaps for A.J. Jefferson, who has been struggling this year.
Jamarca Sanford (safety) - Sanford injured his hamstring in the week 3 game against the Browns. In his place, Andrew Sendejo has played at a reasonable level but Sanford will be much more at home in the Vikings secondary. Sendejo can also return to being a special teams ace and rotational safety. In addition, Robert Blanton can return to being a substitute and give breaks to the starters when needed.
Christian Ponder (quarterback) - Although back to health after a scary injury sustained in the game against Cleveland, Ponder will return to the active list today, but will act as a backup for his former backup, Matt Cassel. With the news of Ponder’s rib injury being life threatening, it is surprising that the team isn’t making him inactive for this game.
Rhett Ellison (tight end) - A knee injury has kept Ellison from taking the field so far this year, but he is currently listed as “questionable” on the Vikings final injury report this week. With the return of fullback Jerome Felton in week 3, and the underwhelming performances from the other tight ends so far this season, Minnesota may just sit him out for this game as a precautionary measure. Ellison is an excellent blocker who is also more than able to catch passes.
With the return of these 4 men, the Vikings should automatically have a better squad than just a few weeks ago. But do not count out the wily Carolina Panthers. They are a better team than their record shows and might just be hungry enough to take a big bite out of this Minnesota team today.