The Vikings offense is shuffling the line, starting a third different combination Sunday in the season’s sixth game.
Ezra Cleveland, the second-round rookie out of Boise State, will get his first NFL start against the Falcons, replacing guard Dru Samia, who was ruled out due to a wrist injury. While no fans are allowed, Cleveland’s father, Jim, said Sunday morning he made the trip to Minneapolis while the team can host 250 family members and staff at U.S. Bank Stadium.
“He's getting better every day out on the practice field,” coordinator Gary Kubiak said of Cleveland this week. “I think Ezra's putting himself in position that he deserves opportunities as well, the way he's practicing. I think before this thing's said and done, you're going to see him get an opportunity to produce and be a part of our team. I'm really proud of how far he's come. I just walked off the field … and he had a really good practice.”
Samia (wrist) was one of four Vikings players ruled out vs. Atlanta, including running back Dalvin Cook (groin), cornerback Kris Boyd (hamstring) and receiver K.J. Osborn (hamstring). Cornerback Holton Hill (foot) was listed doubtful, and will miss a second straight game.
Cleveland, who was a healthy scratch in Week 1, hadn’t played a snap on offense in four games. The Vikings will also have backup offensive linemen Brett Jones and Oli Udoh available. Samia was already replacing Pat Elflein (IR/thumb), and had struggled through his first four NFL starts before popping up on the injury report Thursday with a wrist problem.
Cleveland’s former Boise St. teammate, running back Alexander Mattison, will also get his first NFL start as he replaces Cook in the backfield.
Vikings’ inactives: Cook (groin), Boyd (hamstring), Hill (foot), Osborn (hamstring) and Samia
Falcons’ inactives: DE Takk McKinley (groin), S Jalyinn Hawkins (concussion), OT John Wetzel, RB Qadree Ollison and CB Jordan Miller
Receiver Julio Jones is active and will return to the Falcons offense after playing just 15 snaps since reaggravating a hamstring injury in Week 2.
The Falcons traveled to Minneapolis without two defensive line coaches after another player, defensive end John Cominsky, was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list on Saturday. Atlanta is in the league’s intensive protocols after having positive cases this week.