Dalton Risner Does Not Expect to Start for Vikings vs Chargers

NFL: Denver Broncos at Jacksonville Jaguars
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Vikings officially signed Dalton Risner to a much-anticipated contract on Tuesday, just five days before his new team will square off with the (also winless) Los Angeles Chargers.

It’s a must-win game for both teams because coming back from 0-3 feels a lot more difficult than recovering from 0-2 and both the Vikings and Chargers entered the season feeling good about their chances of playing playoff games in 2024.

Will Dalton Risner start for Vikings?

That’s a large part of why the Vikings finally jumped on Risner, when they had previously been unwilling to do so. Does that mean he will start? Eventually, the answer to that question is yes.

Kwesi didn’t sign Risner for $4 million — a bigger cap number than any other Vikings o-lineman not named Brian O’Neill and more total cash than any o-linemen outside of O’Neill and Garrett Bradbury — to sit him on the bench.

PlayerBase SalaryProrated BonusCap NumberGuaranteedTotal Cash*
Brian O’Neill$1,080,000$8,019,111$9,669,699$1,080,000$19,000,000
Christian Darrisaw$1,873,286$1,766,572$3,639,858$1,873,286$1,873,285
Ezra Cleveland$2,993,000$396,766$3,389,766$0$2,993,000
Garrett Bradbury$1,080,000$814,000$2,170,471$1,080,000$5,250,000
Ed Ingram$977,635$385,541$1,363,176$977,635$977,636
Austin Schlottmann$1,080,000$0$1,130,000$0$1,130,00
David Quessenberry$1,080,000$0$1,080,000$0$1,080,000
Blake Brandel$940,000$0$940,000$0$940,000
OverTheCap.com *Total Cash – Spotrac

But according to Risner, himself, he does not expect to be named a starter prior to his first game as a Vikings, which is this Sunday vs the Los Angeles Chargers.

If Risner doesn’t start in week 3, when will he? Nobody is sure quite yet, but we have some clues that could help us get a better idea of what the plan is.

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Where is Dalton Risner at, physically?

Physically, Risner claims he’s ready to go immediately. Still, nothing Dalton has done over the last few weeks compares to what the rest of his new teammates have been doing. There’s no shape like game shape and Risner isn’t there. His physical readiness could be the biggest factor in when and how often he sees the field, to start his Vikings career.

How quickly can Dalton Risner pick up on the Vikings’ offense?

Remember, Minnesota traded for TJ Hockenson seven games into the 2022 season. He got significant run immediately, hauling in 9 receptions (9 targets) for 70 yards, in his first game. Officially, however, Hockenson wasn’t named a starter until his 4th week with the Vikings.

Kirk Cousins and Kevin O’Connell praised TJ for how quickly he learned the Vikings offense, after being acquired via trade midseason. Much like his physical fitness, Dalton Risner’s capacity to mentally withstand all the information he must consume, in order to be effective, will play greatly into how early and how often he is made available for Kevin O’Connell.

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There’s no doubt it helps that Risner is best friends and played much of his career under the tutelage of Vikings offensive line coach, Kris Kuper. Who knows, maybe he’s been getting insider tips about the Minnesota offense from Kuper for weeks now…

Minnesota Vikings desperate on interior offensive line

The Vikings may want to ease Dalton Risner into the offensive gameplan, given he hasn’t played football yet in 2023 and didn’t know what Kevin O’Connell’s offensive playbook looked like until Tuesday morning, but they may not have a choice.

Offensive line was already a known weak spot, before Christian Darrisaw hurt his ankle and Oli Udoh went out for the season, and the worst part is along the interior, where Risner will eventually be inserted. Sometimes, I’m pretty sure a 5×7 sheetrock slab would do a better job blocking for Kirk Cousins, than Ed Ingram.

Dalton Risner may not start on Sunday vs the Chargers, but I would be surprised if he didn’t get on the field on a semi-regular basis. If he feels good, knows enough of the offense and performs better than those he was signed to replace, he’ll be on the field as often as possible, as early as possible.

Eric Strack | Minnesota Sports Fan