CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Except for injured tight end Irv Smith Jr., the Vikings offense's starting lineup on Sunday afternoon is just about how they drew it up this offseason.
Quarterback Kirk Cousins will have his full complement of weapons, despite all of the top threats — running back Dalvin Cook and receivers Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen — dealing with injuries.
First-round rookie Christian Darrisaw will also get his first start at left tackle, as the Star Tribune reported on Saturday, after debuting in a rotational role last week vs. Detroit. The 23rd overall pick faces a tall task in a blitz-happy Panthers defense that ranks third in the league with 16 sacks in five games.
Nose tackle Michael Pierce will miss his second straight game due to an elbow injury. Armon Watts is expected to remain in the starting lineup for Pierce.
There will be a change at tight end, where No. 2 option Ben Ellefson is inactive because of a knee injury. The Vikings elevated recently signed veteran Luke Stocker to the gameday roster, making him available with fellow backup Chris Herndon.
Vikings' inactives: Pierce (elbow), Ellefson (knee), QB Kellen Mond, DE Patrick Jones II, G Wyatt Davis and WR Ihmir Smith-Marsette
Panthers' inactives: LB Shaq Thompson (foot), LB Kamal Martin (concussion), CB CJ Henderson, DT Phil Hoskins, DE Darryl Johnson and RB Spencer Brown
Running back Christian McCaffery was placed on injured reserve this week because of his hamstring injury, which will keep him out another three games. Rookie Chuba Hubbard will get his third start for McCaffery against the Vikings.