The Vikings Still Haven't Fixed Their Offensive Line Problem

Photo credit: Kareem Elgazzar (The Enquirer)

The Minnesota Vikings may have Brian O’Neill, Christian Darrisaw, and Ezra Cleveland up front but make no mistake, the Vikings haven’t fixed their offensive line. Since Kirk Cousins arrived in Minnesota — and well before that — Minnesota has had some of the worst offensive line units every year. The cause of their abysmal play? A weak interior.

The Vikings drafted Garrett Bradbury with the 18th pick in 2019, and he has arguably been the most significant part of the problem. Bradbury has posted PFF pass-block grades of 38.7, 38.8, and 43.7 during his three seasons, allowing 11 sacks, 15 QB hits, 55 hurries, and 81 pressures to go along with 20 penalties in just 45 career games, according to PFF.

But the problem doesn’t stop at the center position. Instead, it arguably gets worse when you look at the right guard. Mike Remmers, Dru Samia, and Oli Udoh played a significant amount of time throughout the Cousins era. The only respectable right guard the Vikings have had in recent memory is Josh Kline, who had his contract terminated in 2020 to save money.

However, things started to look up this offseason when Minnesota brought in new general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah. He signed Jesse Davis and Chris Reed and drafted Ed Ingram in the third round. With all these moves, it was clear that Adofo-Mensah knew he needed to address the O-line.

But with training camp now in full swing, there is still no clear direction as to which players will be starting at the center and right guard positions come Week 1. And it’s for all the wrong reasons. None of the three new interior offensive linemen the Vikings added this offseason have impressed during camp so far, leaving the Vikings front office wondering if they need to add even more competition.

Currently, Davis and Ingram seem to be battling for the starting right guard position, with Ingram looking to be the favorite following his stout performance in the Vikings’ first preseason game. However, Ingram is still a rookie who has had struggles throughout camp, and if he is named the starter for Week 1, it may feel like more of an indictment of Davis than a compliment for Ingram. And Reed, who did not play in the Vikings’ debut preseason game, is currently practicing with the second-string offense but may give Bradbury a run for his money at the starting center spot.

This type of uncertainty at the center and right guard position does not bode well for the Vikings. As everyone knows all too well, having two missing links along the offensive line can bring the entire offense down. That’s especially true with Cousins under center, who ranked 30th in big-time throw percentage under pressure and 32nd in yards per attempt under pressure last season.

However, when the O-line gave Cousins a clean pocket, he took advantage of it. According to PFF, he ranked second in clean-pocket passer rating, seventh in clean-pocket EPA/play, and fourth in clean-pocket big-time-throw percentage.

More importantly, this poor line performance could affect how Kevin O’Connell can call plays. Last year the Los Angeles Rams ranked first in the NFL in pass-block win rate (68%) with O’Connell as their offensive coordinator. Conversely, the Vikings ranked 25th in the NFL with a 54% win rate, according to ESPN. That kind of discrepancy in O-line capability could prevent O’Connell from unlocking the offense’s true potential by forcing him to play more conservatively to ensure that there isn’t too much pressure on the interior.

Ultimately, although the Vikings made an effort to improve their offensive line, it appears that they have not done enough. This unit seems as if it will continue to be a detriment to an offense loaded with playmakers at the skill positions.

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