Minnesota Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier announced on Thursday that safety Harrison Smith would miss the teams upcoming Monday Night Football match-up with the New York Giants due to a turf toe injury. Frazier also said the injury could require surgery, in which case Smith would miss the rest of the season and the Vikings’ defense would only struggle more.
While Smith hasn’t lived up to expectations put upon him this season, he had a very solid rookie season last year and was in a close race with Luke Kuechly for Defensive Rookie of the Year. Smith does appear to have a bright and long future in Minnesota, but the effects of his injury will be felt immediately against the Giants as they are still led by the gunslinger Eli Manning. Manning has thrown 15 interceptions already this season, but he has also gained over 1,700 yards through the air and Smith would have played a key role in stopping the deep pass on Monday.
Replacing Smith on Monday night will be Mistral Raymond and Andrew Sendejo, two players who have only gotten a limited number of snaps this year and have plenty of question marks surrounding their talent. Sendejo has defended the run extremely well in his 89 snaps this season. Although the Giants are a pass first team, Brandon Jacobs is a bruiser and having Sandejo helping on the run will be a big benefit to the Vikings’ front four.
Raymond, on the other hand, has played in just 39 snaps this season and has been terrible in pass coverage while on the field. Pro Football Focus actually ranks Sandejo as the Vikings’ best run stopper this season despite playing just a limited number of snaps, meaning he will likely be the one who shines in place of the injured Smith. If Smith happens to need surgery and is out for the season the Vikings may look elsewhere to replace him, especially if they win this week and are still in the playoff hunt.
The Vikings’ secondary has struggled as a unit this season, but certain players have shone at times. With Smith missing at least one game, now would be the perfect time for another member of the secondary to step up and provide the Vikings with consistent play.