Minnesota's Depth O-Linemen Have Inspired Hope

Photo Credit: Mark J. Rebilas (USA TODAY Sports)

“It’s not the quarterback’s fault, our offensive line sucks” has always been the motto for Minnesota Vikings fans when the offense underperforms. So when it was announced that the Vikings would make 30 players inactive for the preseason opener against the Denver Broncos, expectations were rather low for an offensive line that has consistently struggled for years.

While some mistakes were made, the group played fairly well overall.

Yes, I am aware that it’s only the preseason and everything should be taken with a grain of salt, but it’s not often you see the Vikings’ offensive line winning battles in the trenches.

So is it okay to start believing in the O-line? Well, it’s always okay to believe in anything since everyone is entitled to their own opinion. For the sake of this article, however, the real question is: How did the first preseason game affect each individual offensive lineman’s chances of making the 53-man roster?

To answer this, I’m going to give a brief overview of how each lineman who played in the Denver game performed, state whether they improved their chances of making the roster or not, and then rank them into tiers accordingly.

A Tier

Mason Cole: I’ll admit, I wasn’t completely on board with the trade to acquire Mason Cole from the Arizona Cardinals considering he had struggled in the desert. But he was easily the team’s best offensive lineman against the Broncos. He was the team’s highest-rated run blocker (82.8) and the second-best pass blocker (82.4). Cole finished with an overall PFF grade of 85.0, which makes him the team’s highest-graded player in Week 1 of the preseason.

Blake Brandel: The former Oregon State Beaver only allowed one sack and four QB hurries in 2019 and played well against the Broncos. His solid pass-blocking production translated to the pros, as he finished the game with a pass-blocking grade of 73.1, and his run-blocking grade wasn’t far behind (66.9). This performance further cements his spot on the team as a backup tackle.

Wyatt Davis: In his first career preseason game, Davis was exactly as advertised. He created holes in the run game and earned a 77.6 run-blocking grade, second-best on the team. His pass blocking was underwhelming (59.7), but he directly benefits from Dakota Dozier‘s rocky start, putting him in the A Tier.

B Tier

Kyle Hinton: A late-round prospect drafted last year, I was really curious to see where he’s at in his development. Hinton is undersized but moves well for an interior offensive lineman. He’s similar to Cohl Cabral in that his pass-blocking grade (78.6) was better than his run-blocking grade (49.4), but the difference wasn’t nearly as extreme. He’s cemented himself as a third-string IOL, whether that be at guard or center. For a seventh-round pick who needed time to develop, he’s doing alright.

Dru Samia: You know, it would be really easy to plop Dru into the D tier solely because his name starts with the letter D and he’s had a disappointing start to his pro football career. However, he showed noticeable improvement against the Broncos, with a team-best PFF pass-blocking grade of 85.2, which is encouraging. Samia needs to be more consistent, as he wasn’t mauling people in the run game like he did at Oklahoma. But he gets upgraded to the B Tier for now.

C Tier

Cohl Cabral: If you were to look on the surface, you’d see that Cabral didn’t do well overall. While that may be true, he did a decent job in pass protection, with a 75.9 PFF grade. What really brought him down was his run blocking, where he was the lowest-ranked offensive lineman in that department. Being that poor of a run blocker as a center under a head coach who likes running the football doesn’t bode well for Cabral’s chances of making the roster.

Evin Ksiezarczyk: He was okay, which is both a blessing and a curse. Ksiezarczyk did well in pass protection (72.8) but wasn’t as effective in the run game (47.8). If the Vikings weren’t so loaded with players who can start at RT, I’d put him in the B Tier. Unfortunately, he hasn’t done enough to separate himself from other backups with more potential.

Zack Bailey: If there’s one player who did absolutely nothing to increase his chances of making the team, it’s Zack Bailey. He was mediocre to bad in both pass protection (42.7) and run blocking (45.0), so nothing really stood out. The Vikings are already deep at tackle and even have guards who can slide over if necessary. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s one of the earlier players who get cut.

D Tier

Dakota Dozier: There’s no sugarcoating it, Dozier had an abysmal performance. Not only was he the worst offensive lineman on the team by far, but he also had a PFF grade of 20.9, which was the lowest on the entire team on both offense and defense. Now he’s losing first-team reps to Oli Udoh. It’s not a given that he’ll make the roster like it was last year. He gets his very own tier.

It’s near impossible to seriously evaluate players after only one preseason game. However, if the offensive line as a whole continues to pass protect as well as they did this week, then the Vikings will start turning more skeptics into believers.

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