The fun with the folks from Football Outsiders continues, as they've released their offensive line rankings. Sufficient to say, I'm quite happy with where the Vikings are ranked.
After missing all of 2005, center Matt Birk started all 16 games in 2006 and made the Pro Bowl. He is one of the best centers in the game when he's healthy. Right guard Artis Hicks is a decent player, but nowhere near as talented as Hutchinson. Throw in right tackle Ryan Cook, and the right side of the Vikings' line isn't nearly as strong as the left. Cook is the line's biggest wild card. He played center at New Mexico, and the Vikings thought he'd spend the season on the bench when they chose him in the second round last year, but he had to move into the starting lineup when right tackle Marcus Johnson got hurt. Cook showed enough promise that he's expected to hang onto the job now that Johnson is healthy, but no matter which one of them wins the battle, right tackle will be the unit's weakness.
Interesting that even with two schlubs like Artis Hicks and Ryan Cook/Marcus Johnson on the right side, the folks at FO.com still think we have the fifth-best offensive line in the game. Just imagine how much better the line will look this year while they're blocking for the best group of running backs in the NFL AND for a QB that doesn't have pigeons landing on him when he drops back to pass.
To summarize what the Football Outsiders rankings have told us, we have an elite rushing attack and a questionable passing game. I'll throw in that the passing game has a ton of potential, and it's obviously going to be better than any of the "experts" out there think it's going to be. It's not going to be the Colts' passing game or the Saints' passing game. . .heck, it might not even be Detroit's passing game. . .but it's not going to be as bad as everybody thinks, either.
Frankly, the passing game this year is going to be just one of many surprises that the Vikings show on their way to the biggest surprise of all. . .the 2007 NFC North title.