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Don’t Look Now, but Vikings OL Was Somewhat Good.


Don't Look Now, but Vikings OL Was Somewhat Good.
Dec 26, 2021; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) and guard Oli Udoh (74) and center Garrett Bradbury (56) and guard Ezra Cleveland. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

Minnesota Vikings fans are accustomed to statistics and grades like this:

This stat from January illuminated Minnesota’s pass-protection woes, spanning four years and perhaps eight if one considers “17th” less than desirable. Every season, the Vikings embarked on a new slate of 16 or 17 games while fans held high hopes “this time would be different.”

It never was.

Accordingly, the Vikings ownership cut ties with general manager Rick Spielman and head coach Mike Zimmer, signaling a possible end to the offensive line doldrums. Kevin O’Connell was hired from the Los Angeles Rams, a team with a fabulous 2021 offensive line that helped win a Super Bowl.

Purple Rumor Mill: "This Year's Stafford," Anthony Harris, Cousins over Lamar?
Jun 10, 2021; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford (9) talks to offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell. Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports.

Implementing a new coaching staff alone inspired hope for change, and if Week 1 was a decent indicator, the Vikings might be on the right path. At U.S. Bank Stadium last weekend, Minnesota suffocated the Green Bay Packers, 23-7, in a rare display of dominance of the Aaron Rodgers-led Packers. Everything about the game and subsequent win felt different — even the offensive trenches.

The Vikings weren’t total gangbusters upfront, nor were Kirk Cousins’ passing pockets pristine. But the OL performance was better, and that’s the important part.

Pro Football Focus identified the mini-surge, too. It published Week 1 OL rankings, and the Vikings climbed five spots from #19 to #14 in one week. PFF wasn’t enamored with the unit, though, instead offering criticism on how Minnesota can improve. Sam Monson of PFF wrote, “Bradbury looks just as much of a liability under the new regime as he did in the old one, surrendering four pressures against Green Bay last week.”

He also tabbed rookie Ed Ingram, a player in his first-ever game on Sunday, as someone who can plan better, stating Ingram “suffered his own issues, and that interior axis remains a concern for the Vikings.”

Still, the Vikings fivesome upfront performed better than most games inside the Mike Zimmer era. And for a unit playing together for the first time — against a fierce Packers defense — Vikings faithful were encouraged.

PurplePTSD: Old Viking to Dolphins, Ed Ingram Momentum, MIN-LV Winners and Losers
Aug 14, 2022; Paradise, Nevada, USA; Minnesota Vikings guard Ed Ingram. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports.

These were the Vikings individual OL grades from PFF versus the Packers:

  • LT: Christian Darrisaw = 62.4
  • LG: Ezra Cleveland = 72.0
  • C: Garrett Bradbury = 59.5
  • RG: Ed Ingram = 79.3
  • RT: Brian O’Neill = 80.6

Life doesn’t get easier for Minnesota as it travels to Philadelphia on Monday night. Sharp Football Analysis called the Eagles defensive line the NFL’s fourth-best heading into the 2022 season.

Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sally from Minneapolis. His Viking fandom dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ and The Doors (the band).

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