Defensive end Kenny Willekes hasn't played an NFL regular season game yet, but he's already been held up as an example by Vikings coordinator Andre Patterson for how to respond to setback. On Sunday night against the Cowboys, Willekes will make his delayed pro debut after being elevated from the practice squad on Saturday afternoon.
Willekes, the 2020 seventh-round pick out of Michigan State, is expected to jump into a rotation where a handful of snaps were freed up by Stephen Weatherly's trade to Denver over the bye week. They'll be down another option as third-round rookie Patrick Jones isn't expected to play after suffering a knee injury this week. He didn't practice Friday.
Willekes will join defensive ends Danielle Hunter, Everson Griffen, and D.J. Wonnum against Dallas. He didn't play in the regular season last year due to a torn ACL suffered in practice. His commitment to physical rehab and effort in practices has been commended by Patterson, who said he's told injured rookie Janarius Robinson to follow Willekes' lead.
Tight end Luke Stocker was also elevated for the second straight week. He'll be the team's third option, behind Tyler Conklin and Chris Herndon, after Ben Ellefson was placed on injured reserve. Ellefson, who was already dealing with a knee injury, appeared to suffer a foot injury in Wednesday's practice.