While the world is ablaze with enthusiasm for second-year left tackle Christian Darrisaw, right tackle Brian O’Neill quietly thrived for the Minnesota Vikings in September.
The Vikings drafted O’Neill in the 2nd Round of the 2018 draft, one of the team’s wisest selections of the decade.
Through three games of the 2022 season, O’Neill has the NFL’s best Pass Block Win Rate at 96.6%, according to ESPN’s Kevin Seifert. No other offensive lineman in the league — there are about 300 eligible candidates — has protected quarterbacks better than O’Neill.
And while O’Neill’s grade from Pro Football Focus doesn’t quite align with the nearly impeccable ESPN stat, PFF plops him at 12th-best in the NFL among all tackles with a 75.9 grade. He outgrades his teammate Darrisaw by 0.4 points. So, suddenly the Vikings employ two of PFF‘s Top 15 tackles leaguewide. For a team that utilized T.J. Clemmings and Jeremiah Sirles as tackle bookends about half of a decade ago, O’Neill and Darrisaw seem like a much more promising long-term solution.
The Vikings offensive line’s performance, on the whole, also confirms the improvement. Through three games, Minnesota is surrendering 1.3 sacks per game — the fourth fewest in the business. At left guard, Ezra Cleveland has played better in his third season than in his sophomore campaign (and he was still quite productive last year). In the middle, Garrett Bradbury owns a 69.8 PFF grade. If it holds for 14 more games, it would be the best season of Bradbury’s career. For right guard, Ed Ingram has acclimated to the NFL adeptly in his first three games as a rookie. He didn’t play wonderfully in Week 3 when the Vikings knocked off the Detroit Lions, but such is life for a rookie.
O’Neill’s shine appears to be rubbing off on his peers as Minnesota transitioned to a new offense in 2022. He’s served as the sole consistent bright spot in the Vikings offensive trenches since 2018 and evidenced by early happenings this season, O’Neill is getting better.
It’s also a relief in some ways due to O’Neill’s paycheck. He’s the second-highest-paid right tackle in the world behind New Orleans’ Ryan Ramczyk. O’Neill earns $18.5 million per season, with Ramczyk at $19.2 million.
And those two players’ teams face each other this Sunday in London. The Vikings are 2.5-point favorites to knock off the Saints at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
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).