Your Minnesota Vikings travel to sunny Las Vegas to test their luck against the Raiders on Sunday, and it’ll be a matchup between two quarterbacks who started the season with slim odds of taking over their teams.
Heck, one of them wasn’t even on his current team. The other has already had to deal with a coaching change, let alone keeping his starting role.
Of course, we’re talking about Josh Dobbs and Aidan O’Connell.
Aidan O’Connell (6 GP, 2-3 - First Game: Week 4, Starter since Week 9)
O’Connell was handed the reins after a Week 3 injury to Jimmy Garoppolo, who would return after O’Connell’s NFL debut (a 17-24 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers). O’Connell would score his first touchdown, a 1-yard rush, in the contest.
Garoppolo would go 2-1 after his return, but lose his starting job after ex-Head Coach Josh McDaniels was unceremoniously fired. Garoppolo did not make a great case for himself
Frankly, the starting quarterback position for the Raiders has been a complete mess with Garoppolo, O’Connell, and even Bryan Hoyer having started at least one game. Garoppolo has played in 6, O’Connell has played in 6, and Hoyer 3.
Since assuming the starting job, O’Connel has went 2-2. His first start after taking over the starting role (which coincided with Head Coach Antonio Pierce’s first game) was a 30-6 Win over the pitiful New York Giants. O’Connell followed that up with a win over the New York Jets, but by then the new QB/Coach honeymoon came to an end.
He has since lost his last two matchups, albeit against much more competitive teams in the Dolphins and the Chiefs.
So far in 2023, O’Connell has went for 4 TDs, 1194 yards, 113-178, and 199 yards per game through the air. O’Connell has fumbled the ball 4 times (2 lost) and thrown 6 picks. He has 6 rushing attempts for 9 yards and 1 TD.
While his numbers are FAR from attractive, O’Connell does have some attractive targets in Davante Adams, unquestionably one of the more talented WRs in the NFL. He is by far the most thrown-to receiver on the Raiders with 118 targets, with the next most being the not-to-be-slept-on Jakobi Meyers.
Those two have 10 TDs and 1405 yards combined, with Meyers having more TDs (6) and Adams having more yardage (814). RB Josh Jacobs, TE Michael Mayer, and WR Hunter Renfrow round out a respectable receiving corps.
Josh Dobbs (4 GP, 1-2 - First Game: Week 9, Starter since week 10)
While the Raiders have been going through quarterbacks mostly due to mediocrity, the Vikings have been forced to switch up their most important position due exclusively to Injury.
The Vikings’ conundrum is much more simple. Kirk Cousins tore his Achilles and Jaren Hall got a concussion in back-to-back games. Regular backup Nick Mullens was out with a back injury.
The Vikings were down to their 4th string QB, who just happened to join the team not even a week before his first snap.
Josh Dobbs, well he did alright. Functionally his record sits at 2-2, having virtually won the game in which he entered for Hall, even though Hall technically got the decision.
Dobbs then continued to surprise the team, and the league, by winning his next game against the New Orleans Saints, despite the teams’ many injury woes up and down the lineup.
Across Dobbs’ first two games, he passed for 3 TDs, went 43-64, 426 yards, 0 INTs, and an average rating of 101.5. Pretty impressive stuff, especially as he had been missing both WR 1 and 2 on the depth chart.
Dobbs’ mobility also shined during those games, going for 110 yards and 2 TDs on 15 attempts, which were mostly scrambles out of the backfield.
The common sentiment says the honeymoon was over after those two games, where Dobbs actually kept pace, going 44-64 for 407 yards and 2 passing TDs.
That is about the most positive thing I can say about those performances as Dobbs’ mobility, his strongest suit, regressed extremely with only 32 yards on 10 carries, a clear step down. He still had a rushing TD, but that was replaced in spades by a bevy of turnovers.
Dobbs has had 5 interceptions in those two games, along with 3 fumbles in the game against the Broncos, one of which was recovered by the defense. Many fans clamored for Dobbs to be benched in favor of the recovered Jaren Hall, and understandably so as turnovers are the quickest way to find the bench in the NFL (in a couple of different ways).
There are positives though to hope for against the Raiders. Dobbs will have a full and healthy receiving Corps, including the consensus most talented receiver in the NFL, Justin Jefferson at his disposal.
TJ Hockenson seems to have used the bye week well to get his ribs healthy again, and Jordan Addison had to have benefitted from some R&R after being leaned on heavily in the stretch into the Bye Week. KJ Osborn also remains fully recovered from a scary head injury sustained in Atlanta.
One thing is for certain though, there seems to be some big potential with Dobbs’ scrambling ability and Jefferson’s deep-route potential. Are you hopeful Jefferson can provide a nice shot in the arm to a struggling QB?