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The Vikings Offensive Line Is Much Improved

New offensive line coach Chris Kuper deserves a lot of credit for the change in the OL performance- and attitude.

Vikings’ Offensive Line Coach Chris Kuper

We’re five games into the season, and what we’ve seen so far from the Vikings’ offensive line is encouraging. There is still work to do and improvements to be made, but the Vikings may have, finally, put together a solid offensive line with good or ascending young players at every position. It’s been a long time coming. A very long time.

Hopefully I’m not being premature here, after all it’s been just five games, but there is a bit of a different vibe coming from the Vikings offensive line in terms of attitude, in addition to some great stats.

Vikings Offensive Line Stats After Five Games

We haven’t seen these kinds of stats from the Vikings offensive line in over a decade, if my memory serves.

Next Gen Stats - Blocking Win Rates

Next Gen stats look at every snap and determine whether the lineman won the rep or not, rather than the more complex PFF grading of each snap. An offensive lineman wins his pass blocking rep if he can sustain his block for 2.5 seconds or longer. He wins his run blocking rep if he prevents his man from: beating him so he’s in better position to stop the runner; disrupting the pocket or running lane by pushing him backwards; containing the runner such that he must adjust his running lane; or recording a tackle within three yards of the line of scrimmage.

PFF Grades

PFF grades offensive linemen on a scale between -2 and +2 on every play using half-point increments to scale how much of a win or loss was achieved on each play. A quick pressure allowed in pass protection is graded worse than an eventual pressure later in the play, for example. Similarly, a dominant win will count more positively than a marginal one. PFF combines their offensive line allowed pressures into an OL Pass Blocking Efficiency score, which is based on the number of pressures allowed divided by the number of pass blocking plays, with sacks weighted the highest, followed by QB hits, and then QB hurries. Also, sometimes pressures are attributed to the quarterback, rather than an offensive lineman, for holding the ball too long, for example. PFF also compiles team pass and run blocking grades, which include non-linemen as well, but are also mostly representative of OL play. PFF grades can also be filtered based on percentage of the highest player snap count played at their position, and for these purposes I looked at essentially starters only, including players that have played 80%+ of the total snaps for individual player rankings this season.

How the Vikings Fared in Both Systems

Here is how the Vikings offensive line fared, along with the ranking in parentheses. I just have the top ten individual player stats from NextGen Stats.

  • NextGen Stats Team Pass Block Win Rate: 65% (t5th with Eagles & Ravens)
  • NextGen Stats Team Run Block Win Rate: 74% (5th)
  • PFF OL Pass Blocking Efficiency: 85.3 (19th)
  • PFF Team Run Blocking Grade: 74.0 (3rd)
  • PFF Team Pass Blocking Grade: 65.2 (t-15th)

Overall offensive line comparisons with the rest of the league according to these two rating systems are represented graphically in the two graphs on the left side, the upper for pass blocking and the lower for run blocking.

Beyond the team stats, the Vikings individual players rank pretty well too.

Garrett Bradbury (C)

  • NextGen Stats Run block Win Rate: 76% (5th)
  • NextGen Stats Pass block Win Rate: 97% (5th)
  • PFF Pass Blocking Grade: 72.0 (5th)
  • PFF Run Blocking Grade: 66.2 (9th)

Christian Darrisaw (LT)

  • NextGen Stats Run Block Win Rate: 83% (2nd)
  • NextGen Stats Pass Block Win Rate: n/a (outside top ten)
  • PFF Pass Blocking Grade: 82.2 (7th)
  • PFF Run Blocking Grade: 74.5 (6th)

Ed Ingram (RG)

  • NextGen Stats Run Block Win Rate: 76% (9th)
  • NextGen Stats Pass Block Win Rate: n/a (outside top ten)
  • PFF Pass Blocking Grade: 59.7 (30th)
  • PFF Run Blocking Grade: 74.3 (7th)

Brian O’Neill (RT)

  • NextGen Stats Pass Block Win Rate: 95% (6th)
  • NextGen Stats Run Block Win Rate: n/a (outside top ten)
  • PFF Pass Blocking Grade: 65.1 (29th)
  • PFF Run Blocking Grade: 79.8 (4th)

Ezra Cleveland (LG)

  • NextGen Stats Pass Block Win Rate: n/a (outside top ten)
  • NextGen Stats Run Block Win Rate: n/a (outside top ten)
  • PFF Pass Blocking Grade: 59.7 (30th)
  • PFF Run Blocking Grade: 74.3 (7th)

2021 Rankings

By contrast, only Ezra Cleveland made the top ten in any individual NextGen Stats category (5th in run blocking win rate) last season, and the Vikings finished 25th in pass blocking win rate (54%) and 13th in run blocking win rate (71%).

In terms of PFF grading, the Vikings finished 26th in team pass blocking grade (54.7) and 16th in run blocking grade at 69.1. Brian O’Neill finished tenth in pass blocking grade (77.5) and 15th in run blocking grade (66.1). Garrett Bradbury finished last (26th) among centers playing at least 50% of snaps in pass protection.

Vikings New Offensive Line Coach Deserves a Lot of Credit

Vikings new offensive line coach, and former NFL guard, Chris Kuper deserves a lot of credit for the improvement nearly across the board among the offensive linemen. And this is his first gig as offensive line coach, having been an assistant previously in Denver. Part of it may also be scheme-related, and part of it may be due to the new regime, but the offensive linemen are definitely showing improvement and a level of performance we haven’t seen in quite a while.

Suddenly every single one of the starting offensive linemen is a top ten run blocker, and the Vikings also have one of the best set of tackles in the league.

Part of the change also appears to be more of a punishing, and finishing, attitude among the offensive linemen- which shows up on tape. That sort of change often comes from the offensive line coach, and the players appeared to have responded well. Another significant achievement is the salvaging of Garrett Bradbury. Kevin O’Connell said early in the off-season that he felt Garrett Bradbury could do well, which raised a lot of eyebrows. That view may well have come from Kuper, who as a former NFL guard, was in a good position to evaluate his performance and what he needs to do to improve. Even into training camp Bradbury wasn’t looking too good, but so far this season has shown much improvement when it counted.

Christian Darrisaw is also much improved from his college days. One of the demerits he got coming out was that he wasn’t much of a finisher. Looking at his performance now, that is definitely no longer the case. Ezra Cleveland also seems to have gone from more of a finesse blocker to more of a punisher too. Ed Ingram is still a work in progress as a pass blocker, but is doing well as a run blocker early in his rookie year. And Brian O’Neill continues to play at a high level as both a pass and run blocker.

We’ll see if the offensive line can sustain this level of play, or even improve upon it as the season progresses, but one encouraging thing is that they’ve built these good stats against some pretty good defensive lines. The Packers, Eagles, and Saints all have pretty good defensive lines, and the Lions maybe better than they get credit for. The Bears are not as good, but Robert Quinn is still pretty good and Christian Darrisaw didn’t have much trouble with him. In fact, neither Darrisaw, Cleveland or Bradbury gave up a pressure against the Bears.

Some of the Vikings’ Offensive Line Greatest Hits This Season


Do the Vikings finally have their OL of the Future?

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