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Lunchbreak: Vikings Candidates for More Playing Time

The Vikings are rested up from their bye week and now turn their attention to the rest of the 2020 season.

That 10-game stretch begins Sunday in Green Bay, but with a 1-5 record and slim playoff hopes, Minnesota could take a look at what it has in a handful of young players on its roster.

Will Ragatz, who covers the Vikings for Maven Media, recently offered up a half-dozen such players who could get more playing time in the second half of the 2020 season.

Ragatz's list began with Irv Smith, Jr., a second-year tight end who was a second-round pick in 2019.

Ragatz wrote:

Through the first four games of the season, Smith had been a complete non-factor in the Vikings offense with just two catches for 14 yards. Then the Vikings pledged to get him more involved in the offense ahead of the Seahawks game. They weren't kidding. Smith has eight catches for 109 yards over the past two games – including three catches of 23 yards or more – and has looked very impressive while doing it.

Smith has 10 receptions for 133 yards on the season.

Ragatz also opined that a pair of fourth-round rookies should see the field more during the remainder of the 2020 season.

He noted that defensive end D.J. Wonnum and linebacker Troy Dye could be in line for more playing time.

Wonnum played a career-high 33 snaps against the Falcons and put up his best performance of the year. Now, with Yannick Ngakoue traded to Baltimore, he's in line for even more playing time.

Wonnum has a sack and three tackles for loss in 2020.

Dye played was injured in Week 2 when he played 21 snaps against the Colts. And although the rookie linebacker is currently still on Injured Reserve, Ragatz wrote that he should be a part of Minnesota's linebacker group when he's healthy.

Ragatz also listed offensive linemen Ezra Cleveland and Olisaemeka Udoh as candidates for more playing time, along with defensive tackle James Lynch.

View photos of the Vikings 53-man roster as of January 4, 2021.

Krammer assess Vikings CB Hughes

Mike Hughes has been a bit unlucky early on in his NFL career.

The 2018 first-round selection has a pick-6 in his NFL debut, but ended up missing the majority of his rookie season with a torn ACL.

Hughes worked himself back on the field for 14 games in 2019, but missed a pair of Vikings playoff games with a neck injury.

Andrew Krammer of the Star Tribune wrote about Hughes in his most-recent weekly mailbag, as the cornerback has missed all or parts of three games this season with a neck issue.

Krammer was asked if Hughes' talent has been overshadowed by his injury history.

He wrote:

That's a good question, considering Hughes has been available for only 24 of 38 NFL regular season games at this point, and he exited the 24th game last Sunday after 13 snaps due to a neck injury that has continually popped up over the past year. His 2019 season ended due to a fractured vertebra in his neck, and he missed two games earlier this season due to a listed neck injury before leaving the Falcons game with the same designation.

I'd go as far as to say Hughes is good when he's healthy, but that's the problem. He had nine deflections, two forced fumbles and a pick last year, and that was all within a 10-game span from Weeks 5-16. He didn't debut until Week 3 due to the torn ACL from 2018, and was out by the season finale due to the neck fracture.

Hughes has a pair of interceptions along with three forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries in his young career.