An Upward Trend for the Minnesota Vikings Offensive Line

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.

As we enter Week 5, fans are wondering if the Vikings offense is trending up or trending down. It is not unusual for fans to express frustration about the Minnesota Vikings offensive line, it has been mostly terrible for years. Now, with the Vikings 3-1 for the first time since 2016, the offensive line is sparking some optimism.

Vikings O-Line Starts Strong

Minnesota started the season strong with a decisive win over the Green Bay Packers, 23-7. The Vikings offensive line had a few small miscues but overall played an exceptionally strong game.

Quarterback Kirk Cousins was only sacked once, even against a strong Packers defensive front that includes Kenny Clark and Rashan Gary. The Vikings have been building a line via the draft. Week 1 showed the potential that this mostly young OL is trending up. 

A Week 2 Struggle

The Vikings did not look like the same team Week 2 against the Philadelphia Eagles. The offensive line did not adapt to meet the tough Eagle defense. The Vikings just weren’t able to get anything off the ground offensively and they lost 24-7.
There was enough blame to go around – Cousins wasn’t making good reads and threw 3 interceptions and it was just luck that it wasn’t double that number. However, the offensive line also wasn’t in sync and wasn’t always giving him enough time or blocking well enough. Cousins faced pressure 11 times and was sacked twice.

Dominant Against Lions

While we are only a few games into the season, PFF has the offensive line graded better than last season. It appears to be part of an upward trend, as they look much better than previous seasons.

The returning players are showing progress, with Christian Darrisaw leading the way and looking like the Pro Bowler he was anticipated to be. Brian O’Neill continues to be the kind of player that all teams want. He has a high motor and can be counted on to pursue until the whistle on every play.

Trend Down

In week 4, the Vikings played the New Orleans Saints in London. The Vikings had never lost a game in London and that held true again this season. However, it was not a decisive victory. The Vikings held on to a lead by the skin of their teeth because the Saints kicker bounced the ball off the goalpost, giving the Vikings a victory.

Receivers Justin Jefferson and Adam Theilen both looked more involved than they had in prior weeks and this was a key to the narrow lead. The Minnesota Vikings offensive line appeared to trend down a bit in Week 4. Darrisaw and O’Neill were easily beaten in pass protection by the Saints defense on a few occasions. New Orleans was able to rush Cousins, who was sacked 3 times. 

A Red Flag

One area where the Viking offense is not performing as well as they have in years past is the red zone. In 2021, the fans did not have many expectations but one they did have was that if the offense made it to the red zone they would score. The Vikings ranked 10th in the NFL in red zone touchdowns, scoring 62.26% of the time.

In fact, they ranked in the top 10 for red zone TDs for the past 3 years. Now it feels like the red zone has become unexplored territory. After the Week 4 game against the Saints, the Vikings rank 26th. This is not exclusively the fault of the offensive line, the entire offense owns responsibility for the lack of success in scoring. 

Improvements Can Be Seen

Despite showing some inconsistencies the first 4 weeks of the season, the offensive line is actually improving. Improvements that stick come with some growing pains and that is what is being seen so far this season. Some of the growth in 2022 shows the Vikings have the parts needed for a playoff contender offensive line.

The unit still has room for growth, but they have shown improvement and are managing to get wins when it counts. For the first time in a long time, Vikings fans can be excited about a positive trend up for the offensive line!