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Lunchbreak: Christian Darrisaw Reaching New Heights in 2nd season as Vikings LT

No sophomore slumps for Christian Darrisaw.

In just his second year in the NFL, the Vikings left tackle has continued to stack up one strong performance after another this season.

Will Ragatz of Sports Illustrated recently analyzed Darrisaw’s season so far. Ragatz wrote:

The 23-year-old is right there with Justin Jefferson and Za'Darius Smith in any conversation about the best players on the Vikings roster, and he'll have a real chance to be an All-Pro if he keeps this up during the second half of the season.

"He's had a great year," Head Coach Kevin O'Connell said this week. "His consistency in pass pro is something we all see. He's had some tough matchups and really answered the call each and every time. He's done some things that maybe don't jump out on tape sometimes, but really lending a hand here and there, going the extra mile from a standpoint of — he's blocked his assignment and then he still is able to maybe clean up something else that happens in the pocket."

Darrisaw was drafted 23rd overall by the Vikings in the 2021 NFL Draft. Ragatz noted Darrisaw's physicality grabbed Minnesota's attention.

Darrisaw's physical tools were evident when the Vikings drafted him, even if he didn't test at the 2021 combine while recovering from a groin injury. He's 6-foot-6, 315 pounds with long arms and an incredible combination of lateral movement skills and power. The difference between his rookie season and this year is that he's taken another step with his technique and consistency. In pass protection, he's able to use his anchor and strong hands to stop edge rushers in their tracks and react to all kinds of rush moves.

In the running game, he has the quickness to get where he needs to be and the strength to move defenders out of gaps. Seemingly every week, there's at least one highlight on film of Darrisaw pancaking a defensive player or sending them flying.

O'Connell said he's noticed more than just the physical attributes of Darrisaw.

"His athleticism, his balance, his power, he's got all the physical traits, but what I've really noticed about him is just what he does throughout the week to prepare, and then he's got a level of calm during the game that is impressive to me for a younger player," O'Connell added. "But I think it's his confidence coming through in a way where he knows, he expects each and every Sunday to be one of the better players on the field, and he's proven that every Sunday that I've been here."

Darrisaw has only allowed one pressure each of the past three weeks and a total of five in the past six games, according to Pro Football Focus. He hasn't given up a sack this season.

Darrisaw also has a PFF grade of 89.1, the second-best mark for a tackle and the third-best grade for any offensive lineman.

"He's been tremendous," Kirk Cousins said. "I think the fact he's only a second-year player is incredible, considering how confident and comfortable he is in his role. He has a very difficult job going against great pass rushers every week. He's just himself. He was able to go back home essentially (last week) and play in front of a lot of home family members and friends and had another great game. I'm so grateful."

CBS Sports ranks remaining strength of schedule for contending teams

We're halfway there.

Nine weeks have gone by in the 2022 NFL regular season and nine more remain.

Several teams are getting closer to clinching playoff berths while others will have a fight to the finish.

Jeff Kerr of CBS Sports recently looked at 20 NFL teams who are currently contending for the postseason and their remaining strength of schedule.

Kerr said the Vikings have the 13th-easiest — or eighth-hardest depending on how you look at it — schedule through the final nine weeks.

Kerr wrote:

The Vikings are up 4.5 games up on the NFC North, but have a rough schedule coming up. In the next four games, the Vikings opponents are a combined 23-11. This may be their shot at home-field advantage — or to stay in the race.

Minnesota's remaining opponents have a combined record of 40-36-1, beginning Sunday in Buffalo against the 6-2 Bills.

Kerr listed the Bills, Cowboys and Jets with the seventh, sixth and fifth-hardest schedule coming up, respectively, while the Patriots have the toughest remaining schedule on the list.