Pertinent Purple Topics: Is the Vikings’ iOL Good Enough?

Nov 1, 2020; Green Bay, Wisconsin, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook (33) celebrates with offensive tackle Ezra Cleveland (72) after scoring a touchdown in the third quarter during the game against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

For a while now, Vikings fans have been concerned about the offensive line. The main focus in the present moment rests in the Vikings’ iOL, a weak spot for a talented offense. The current best guess is that Ezra Cleveland will play LG, Garrett Bradbury will play center, and Chris Reed will play RG.

Cleveland is likely the best of the three. Since being chosen a couple drafts ago, Cleveland has proven to be a strong player. He was forced into the starting RG position part way through his rookie season. It’s no small task going from college LT to NFL RG in one’s first year. All things considered, he played well. Last year, he got the chance to partner with Christian Darrisaw along the left side. If things go as we’re all hoping, both Cleveland and Darrisaw will show significant improvement in 2022. They’re both athletic players who can climb to the second level and get into space to block for screens.

Admittedly, I’ve gotten the Bradbury situation wrong. I thought they’d look to move on from the former first-round pick. Instead, they’ve been consistent in their desire to see him be the starting center. As a run blocker, Bradbury is a fine option. The concern, though, is that he’s perhaps the weakest pass blocker for the Vikings iOL. If Kevin O’Connell can somehow get the veteran to improve, Minnesota’s offense will be much more dangerous. It’s very hard for a QB to complete passes when his center gets pushed back into him with some regularity.

The RG competition is, well, a competition. The sense I have is that Reed is a good player, and he appears to have a good shot at the starting position. He’ll need to show he’s better than Jesse Davis, Wyatt Davis, and maybe Ed Ingram to be the starter. A lot of the offseason is still ahead of us, so anything can happen. Training camp and preseason games will be the main ways of evaluating the RGs, not the earlier workouts and mini camp.

With all that said, we come back to the main question: have the Vikings done enough to ensure they’ll have a strong iOL? Frankly, I’m not sure they have. Cleveland is a good player and perhaps Reed is solid. Bradbury remains a wild card, and an injury to one of the starters may make things challenging. For whatever it’s worth, J.C. Tretter is still out there.

Editor’s Note: This series considers a variety of questions that Minnesota will be looking to answer during training camp and the preseason. The point is simply to provide concise discussions of pertinent purple topics. We’ll do one per day leading up to training camp, which begins on July 24th.