In recent seasons the Minnesota Vikings have long drawn the ire of their fanbase due to a poorly performing offensive line. With skill position players a la mode, it’s hard to see them lack opportunity with opposing defense wreaking havoc. So far in 2022, we’ve seen reason for optimism.
One of the greatest positions of intrigue during Training Camp this summer was what new Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell would do for his starting center. Garrett Bradbury is still present on his rookie contract, but he’s largely been as effective at blocking as swiss cheese. Kwesi Adofo-Mensah signed veteran guard Chris Reed from the Indianapolis Colts, and while not a traditional fit for the role, he rotated in during the preseason. Thus far, it’s been Bradbury, and unfortunately, more of the same, but the unit seems to be better.
Ultimately the Vikings are going to lean on their offense this season. Unlike the game plans laid out by previous head coach Mike Zimmer, O’Connell seeks to utilize his skill position players to mask what the defense may lack. Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen, Dalvin Cook, and others will only be as effective as the ability to get the ball in their hands, however. That starts up front.
The Vikings knew they had a stud in Brian O’Neill when locking him up with a significant contract extension. Although Christian Darrisaw didn’t immediately see the field in 2021, he’s now established himself as a true weekly star and bolsters the opposite side. In presenting such solid edges for a quarterback like Kirk Cousins, theoretically, it should make reading where the pressure comes from that much easier.
Darrisaw actually ranks better than O’Neill out of the 69 tackles graded by Pro Football Focus this season, but both are very strong assets. Ed Ingram is still learning on the fly as a rookie, but being in the top half among guards this early on is a positive sign. Ezra Cleveland is a fine starter with depth behind him, and Bradbury has been exactly the definition of mediocre.
There’s no denying that the line could stand for improvement up the middle, and that will be the goal of Minnesota offensive line coach Chris Kuper throughout the season. Spreading an opposing defensive line out with a fast RB like Cook can also provide that group some relief.
I don’t think you’ll find anyone ready to suggest that Minnesota is in a position to call their offensive line a strength yet, but it’s hard to argue against it being the weakness it has been in previous seasons. The progress made from such a vital position group is beyond welcomed.
Ted Schwerzler is a blogger from the Twin Cities that is focused on all things Minnesota Twins and Minnesota Vikings. He’s active on Twitter and writes weekly for Twins Daily. As a former college athlete and avid sports fan, covering our pro teams with a passion has always seemed like such a natural outlet.