E Point Perfect

Vikings Starting OL Shaping Up as Homegrown Bunch


Vikings Starting OL Shaping Up as Homegrown Bunch
Feb 4, 2022; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Minnesota Vikings tackle Brian O’Neill. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports.

If the Minnesota Vikings starting offensive line projection holds up, the homegrown bunch will be a testament to early-round draft planning.

After an impressive preseason showing and effectuation of 2nd-Round draft stock, rookie Ed Ingram is trending to start at right guard in September. And he’s the last piece of the draft puzzle for Minnesota.

This is the Vikings projected starting offensive line, with draft details:

  • LT: Christain Darrisaw (Drafted by MIN, Round 1 — 2021)
  • LG: Ezra Cleveland (Drafted by MIN, Round 2 — 2020)
  • C: Garrett Bradbury (Drafted by MIN, Round 1 — 2019)
  • RG: Ed Ingram (Drafted by MIN, Round 2 — 2022)
  • RT: Brian O’Neill (Drafted by MIN, Round 2 — 2018)
Vikings Had 2 Iron Men on Offense in 2021
Dec 5, 2021; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Minnesota Vikings center Mason Cole (52), Ezra Cleveland (72), and offensive tackle Brian O’Neill. © David Reginek-USA TODAY Sports.

So, while many Vikings enthusiasts lament the team’s offensive in recent years — rightfully so — the woes aren’t for lack of planning. Minnesota has struggled ad nauseam to nail down the pass-protecting side of operations but has managed to plow lanes for running backs with relative ease.

Pro Football Focus rankings from the Mike Zimmer era illuminate the pass-protection doldrums:

Vikings OL Pass Protection,
Ranking from PFF,
Since 2014:

2014 = 23rd
2015 = 28th
2016 = 30th
2017 = 17th
2018 = 27th
2019 = 27th
2020 = 29th
2021 = 27th

With the page turned on Minnesota’s 2014-2019 coaching staff, a new group will take a stab at correcting the troublesome offensive trenches. The Vikings hired an “offense-first” coaching staff in February, so if the bottom-tier pass-protection mark persists, it will have meant that back-to-back coaching staffs couldn’t “figure it out.”

Dec 20, 2021; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) and Minnesota Vikings offensive tackle Christian Darrisaw. Mandatory Credit: Quinn Harris-USA TODAY Sports

For now, the center position is the one looming question mark. Darrisaw, Cleveland, Ingram, and O’Neill are undeniably trending up, but Bradbury is still a maybe. Minnesota spent unusually high draft capital on the North Carolina State alumnus in 2019, but his performance in the last three years has not matched the investment. That’s why Bradbury is amid a training camp and preseason battle for his own job, side-eyeing Chris Reed, a free agent from the Indianapolis Colts, who could sneak in the starting lineup at center.

If Bradbury somehow stabilizes, though, the Vikings will march into Week 1 versus the Green Bay Packers with a totally organic OL fivesome, plucked from the last five NFL drafts with early draft picks.

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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