The Minnesota Vikings will be without starting guard Ezra Cleveland in their Week 11 matchup with the Dallas Cowboys. And after releasing previous starter Pat Elfein at the start of the week, this leaves Minnesota in a tough spot against a well-rested Cowboys team.
Cleveland was the Vikings' 2nd-round pick last April coming out of Boise State, making him one of the few Boise alumni to ever not play for the Cowboys (I kid, I kid). He's been starting at guard since Week 6 due to injuries and appeared to have earned the job permanently.
Unfortunately, an ankle injury from last week's game against the Bears has lingered through the week. Ezra gutted it out on Monday Night Football but has now been officially ruled out of this Sunday's game with Dallas.
Coincidentally, Minnesota released fourth-year veteran Pat Elfein last weekend after deciding to keep Cleveland as the starter. They are likely regretting that move now as they're forced to turn to a practice squad player to play guard this week.
#Vikings officially rule out starting right guard Ezra Cleveland (ankle) for Sunday's game against Dallas. Brett Jones expected to start. Vikings also list as questionable CB Cameron Dantzler (concussion), TE Irv Smith Jr. (groin)
Jets claiming guard Pat Elflein off waivers from the #Vikings. He was let go Saturday to pave the way for Ezra Cleveland to be the starter at right guard and for the Vikings to save $878,294 on Elflein''s base salary.
Brett Jones, a 29-year-old journeyman who's bounced on and off the Vikings' practice squad all season, will be the starting right guard against the Cowboys.
While Pat Elfein had his flaws, mainly in pass protection, he's been a full-time starter for the Vikings since entering the NFL in 2017. Whether at center or guard he's helped Minnesota make the playoffs twice during the last three seasons.
Now Jones, an undrafted player in 2013 with only 17 starts in his career, will have to step up and taken on Neville Gallimore, Antwaun Woods, and other Cowboys defenders coming off their bye week. It will be Brett's first start of 2020.
This presents Dallas with a significant opportunity in a game they'd love to win. After losses last week by Philadelphia and Washington, the Cowboys find themselves just a couple games back in the NFC East and with plenty of season left to go.
If Dallas can repeat some of the good things we saw in the close loss to the Steelers then who knows where this game and this season could still lead? The Vikings will still be a tough opponent at home but this development with Ezra Cleveland's absence will help make the Cowboys job easier.