If there’s one player on defense the Minnesota Vikings can’t afford to lose for a significant amount of time, it’s safety Harrison Smith. The team reported Friday that the promising, young safety would be placed on injured reserve/designated for return, which will keep him out for at least eight weeks.
The Vikings’ secondary, even with Smith in the lineup, has been horrendous this season. Minnesota is 29th in pass yards allowed per game, 23rd in opponent’s QBR and tied for 27th in passing touchdowns given up. It’s hard to think about how much worse this secondary can and will get without Smith, the only impact player in the defensive backfield. Smith is the most irreplaceable player on the Vikings’ defense because if other prominent defenders like Jared Allen, Kevin Williams and Chad Greenway got injured, there’s a solid player to replace them. Minnesota’s secondary has been devastated by injuries and poor play this season, which has left the team with little depth and confidence in its players. Smith has two interceptions this season, tied with Greenway and linebacker Erin Henderson for the most on the team, and has kept the Vikings in games with his big-play ability.
Without one of the cornerstones of their defense, the Vikings will continue to struggle on that side of the ball. Even if Josh Freeman becomes the quarterback the team wants to build around, Minnesota will have a unit that’s among the worst in the NFL. Unless the team’s pass rush can miraculously make up for the significant deficiencies on the back end, this team will continue its free-fall from a 10-win, playoff season to the bottom of the league.