No matter how hard a front office works to construct a roster in today’s National Football League, there’s going to be a weakness. Sometimes they’re a little tougher to identify, but other times, much like the big, blinking red light on an old school video game boss, you can figure out what it is pretty easily.
Same as it ever was for the Vikings, who have seemingly been attempting to solidify their offensive line for most of the past decade. They certainly have invested plenty of picks into line help over the past few years, but the only upper-echelon starter they can count on is right tackle Brian O’Neill, who made it to his first Pro Bowl a year ago.
O’Neill is one of five linemen drafted in either the first or second round on the roster. Center Garrett Bradbury had his fifth-year option declined and is likely in his final year with the team. He might be pushed by veteran Chris Reed. Left guard Ezra Cleveland improved after moving from the right side last season, although replacement right guard Oli Udoh was whistled for a league-high 16 penalties a year ago, including nine holding calls. He’ll compete with rookie second-rounder Ed Ingram.
The key player is 2021 first-rounder Christian Darrisaw, who ranked 67th out of 68 tackles in pass block win rate a year ago across his 10 starts. Public perception of Darrisaw was more optimistic about his debut campaign. If he takes a step forward in Year 2 and becomes a solid left tackle, the Vikings can at least count on having solid pass protection on the edges. Anything more consistent in terms of interior protection would be a bonus.
(Yeah, the Talking Heads song popped into my brain as soon as I saw the first sentence. It’s only right that you all have it there, too.)
We’ve been over the situation on the offensive line this year, much the same as we’ve been over it pretty much every year for the past decade. I’ve said this before, but I don’t think that Udoh is in the mix at guard anymore at this point. . .that appears to be a three-way dance between Chris Reed, Jesse Davis, and Ed Ingram, though Reed might be figuring in more prominently at center at this point.
As far as Darrisaw, who is one of the big keys to this offensive line, he’s garnering some pretty significant comparisons during this year’s Training Camp. He’s being compared to San Francisco 49ers star offensive tackle Trent Williams, who might be the best in the league. That’s some pretty tall cotton right there, but Darrisaw has more than enough ability to live up to those sorts of comparisons.
But until the Vikings prove that it’s not a sore spot anymore, the offensive line is going to continue to be an easy pick for the weakest spot on the Vikings’ roster. Hopefully the Vikings can take another step in putting that to bed this season with some of the moves they’ve made.