Vikings

We Get Our First Look At Minnesota's Right Guard Battle As OTAs Open

Photo credit: Jenna Watson-The Indianapolis Star via USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Vikings began their Organized Team Activities (OTAs) on Monday, giving fans their first look at veterans and rookies on the field together since the new regime took over in February. These are voluntary and with limited contact, so don’t use these practices to etch hot takes in stone.

OTAs were open to the media on Tuesday. Although most of the starting lineup was predictable, there was one intriguing development. Last year’s main starters held four of the offensive line spots, but free-agent acquisitions Chris Reed and Jesse Davis rotated in at first-team right guard.

We got our first glimpse at Minnesota’s hottest positional battle heading into training camp. None of the 10 rookies played with the starters, so this isn’t even considering that Ed Ingram will most likely be battling for the same spot with Reed and Davis.

Reed and Davis have spent their careers shuffling along the offensive line. Reed spent most of his time at each guard spot, while Davis has taken snaps at every offensive line spot outside of center. Neither has been poor or spectacular, although it should be noted that Reed has a Pro Football Reference grade of 63.0 or better in the past three seasons. Meanwhile, Davis topped out with a 62.6 grade in 2020 but has graded in the 50 range his other four seasons.

There are some differences in their games, though. Davis has graded better in pass protection than in the run game. Conversely, Reed has graded out much better in the running game than in the passing game. His run-blocking has been markedly better than Davis’ in the past three seasons.

While that may have given Reed a leg up on Davis in the Mike Zimmer era, Kevin O’Connell will be bringing in a more contemporary offense. It will be centered around maximizing what Kirk Cousins can do.

Therefore, Davis’ pass blocking may give him the edge. While he has played all over the line, his two best pass-blocking seasons with the Miami Dolphins came when he played right guard. He took all 921 of his snaps at right guard in 2018, and his pass-blocking grade was 69.3, much better than any single season for Reed. In 2020, Davis took 509 snaps at right guard, tallying a grade of 62.1 in pass protection.

Reed and Davis saw all the first-team reps at right guard. Last year’s starter, Oli Udoh, wasn’t in the mix. And because the Vikings drafted Ingram, we can expect to see the last of Udoh at right guard. Udoh will likely be vying for the backup swing tackle position, a title held by Rashod Hill since 2016.

It’s also worth noting that 2021 third-round selection Wyatt Davis didn’t see any reps. With the off-season additions of Reed, Jesse Davis, and Ingram, it appears as if Wyatt Davis is going to enter training camp vying just to make the roster.

For once, it appears as if the Vikings have a healthy mix of versatility, experience, and talented youth at right guard. Perhaps Reed and Jesse Davis are battling for a roster spot that the front office has already penciled in for Ingram. But for now, the Vikings can enjoy two solid veterans with starting experience vying for the hottest opening on the offensive side of the ball.

Other OTA Notes
  • As stated above, none of the rookies got any first-team reps on Tuesday. Although this is to be expected early on, I would imagine that safety Lewis Cine and cornerback Andrew Booth, Jr. are rotated into the starting lineup in some capacity when training camp arrives. Booth is also rehabbing an injury.
  • Bisi Johnson was back on the field getting reps at WR4. Johnson tore his ACL before the 2021 preseason. He impressed as a rookie in 2019, but he will have to hold off raw-but-talented second-year wideout Ihmir Smith-Marsette.
  • Kellen Mond got some of the second-team reps at quarterback. Still, I don’t think this means that the coaching staff has any more belief in him than the previous leadership did. However, I’m expecting to see some long looks from Mond in training camp and the preseason. We all know what Sean Mannion brings to the table. Let’s see if Mond can take that next step.
  • Dalvin Cook saw some looks at receiver on Tuesday. Cook has caught 182 passes for 1,499 yards and three scores in his career. As fluid as he can look catching the ball, these receptions have largely come from screens and mundane checkdown looks. Perhaps O’Connell has some ideas to use Cook in the passing game, similar to how Alvin Kamara has been in New Orleans.
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