Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
We love the folks from Pro Football Focus and the advanced stats they put out there. Yesterday, they released their rankings of the NFL's offensive lines for the 2012 season, and not surprisingly, the Minnesota Vikings finished among the best in the league in that respect. Thanks to rookie Matt Kalil, the consistency of center John Sullivan, and stronger than expected play from Phil Loadholt, the Vikings offensive line was massively improved from just a season ago.
At least. . .I thought it was.
It turns out that the folks from PFF might have a slight disagreement with that. This year, they ranked the Vikings as the 9th-best offensive line in the NFL, with the following commentary:
Stud: It might not be the coolest thing to say, but there's no denying that over the past two years the best center in the league has been John Sullivan (+27.3).
Dud: The Vikings made a big mistake in keeping Brandon Fusco (-11.8) in the starting lineup when they had better options on the bench.
Summary: The only criticism of this line is that Geoff Schwartz didn't get nearly enough playing time. That aside, what more could you want from this line? They kept their quarterback upright, and in Sullivan and Phil Loadholt they have two of the most punishing run blockers in the league at their positions. Trending upwards, with rookie left tackle Matt Kalil being exactly as advertised.
Sounds pretty good, right? And it is, until you realize one thing. . .
Last year's offensive line was ranked the 7th-best in the NFL by Pro Football Focus, so the Vikings actually dropped two spots this season.
Now, I'm not completely sure how that happens. . .I thought that the 2011 offensive line was a disaster, with Charlie Johnson looking overmatched at left tackle and Steve Hutchinson finally showing his age. I'll attempt to ask the folks from PFF what made the 2011 line better than the 2012 version, and if I get a response, I'll tack it on to the end of this piece.
But that's where the offensive line stands for now, folks. . .and with one of the younger offensive lines in the league, there's plenty of room for them to get even better.