Local onlookers of the 2022 Minnesota Vikings expect to team’s offensive line to crawl out of the basement for the first time in about 10 years. But according to ESPN, that mentality is wishful thinking.
ESPN projected the best and worst offensive lines for the upcoming season last week, using pass and run-block win rates as criteria. And per ESPN’s Seth Walder, Minnesota will showcase the league’s 22nd-best offensive trenches, also known as 11th-worst.
The really frightening part? The ESPN prediction foresees the Vikings producing the second-to-worst pass-block win rate, ahead of only the Pittsburgh Steelers. Indeed, ESPN ranked Minnesota 31st in pass-blocking but seventh in run-blocking.
While the starting fivesome of the team’s OL is fluid at training camp, ESPN believes these men with be the starters:
- LT: Christian Darrisaw
- LG: Ezra Cleveland
- C: Garrett Bradbury
- RG: Jesse Davis
- RT: Brian O’Neill
Walder defended the Vikings #22 placement, “Cleveland is the wild split player on this line, as he finished fifth best in run block win rate among guards but third worst in pass block win rate. And Darrisaw’s career got off to a rocky start, as the rookie posted the second-worst pass block win rate among all tackles in 2021.”
It’s worth noting the ESPN list is one of the first times Darrisaw’s rookie season has been described anywhere as “rocky.” Darrisaw’s Pro Football Focus grade (71.9) in 2021 ranked fourth-best among all rookie tackles.
Still, Walder isn’t sold on the Vikings offensive line — probably because the group has struggled for years, especially with pass protection. These are the Vikings pass-blocking rankings from the Mike Zimmer era via PFF:
Vikings OL Pass Protection,
Ranking from PFF,
2014 = 23rd
2015 = 28th
2016 = 30th
2017 = 17th
2018 = 27th
2019 = 27th
2020 = 29th
2021 = 27th
Well, Zimmer is no longer in charge of the team, so Vikings fans are banking on an uptick in OL performance, chiefly because the new regime is labeled “offense-first.” Kevin O’Connell was hired as Zimmer’s replacement six months ago and was the offensive coordinator for the Los Angeles Rams last year, a team that did not flounder in the trenches.
New general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah also took proactive steps to end the interior offensive line malarkey. He welcomed the aforementioned Jesse Davis to the franchise, plus guards Chris Reed and Ed Ingram. Minnesota’s primary woes have been caused by center and guard play, and the trio of Davis, Reed, and Ingram might just solve the turmoil.
If they do not, Kirk Cousins will be under siege for a fifth consecutive year, the Vikings offense won’t feel much different, and the ESPN article will be prophetic in hindsight.
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).