Brian O’Neill Heads to the IR, Vikings Sign Two Offensive Linemen

Brian O'Neill
Dec 23, 2018; Detroit, MI, USA; Minnesota Vikings offensive tackle Brian O'Neill (75) and offensive guard Mike Remmers (74) during the game against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

We knew the injury to Austin Schlottmann was going to end his season. There was some hope, though, that perhaps Brian O’Neill could return for the playoffs. Unfortunately, that doesn’t look like it’ll be the case, so the Vikings have decided to sign two offensive linemen.

The Vikings Sign Two Offensive Linemen

First off, the news. Take a look at Will Ragatz’s tweet:

Losing to the Packers is always horrendous, but losing several offensive linemen in the process makes the game even more miserable. The Vikings are heading to the postseason. Being able to go on a run is largely dependent on having the team’s best players available.

O’Neill is a borderline-elite right tackle, someone who partners with Christian Darrisaw to give Minnesota perhaps the best OT tandem in the NFL. Replacing him will be Oli Udoh, a sixth-round selection from the 2019 Draft. At 6’6″, 320, Udoh has great size and he has some starter experience (though much of it comes at RG). It’s also possible that we see some Vederian Lowe, a rookie offensive tackle who has only played on special teams so far.

O’Neill is 7th overall in the PFF rankings for offensive tackles with an impressive 83.1 grade. Much remains unknown about the severity of the injury, but hopefully it doesn’t impact his offseason too much. He’s only 27, and the hope is that he’ll continue being an excellent RT for years to come.

Schlottmann had been filling in for Garrett Bradbury. The broken leg means Minnesota is turning to Chris Reed, the backup to Schlottmann. During the offseason, there was some belief that Reed could push for the starting RG job, but Ed Ingram has been holding down the spot. Reed’s task will be to quickly get comfortable in the offense, avoiding the pesky errors that helped to hinder Minnesota’s offense against Green Bay.

Ideally, Mancz and Evans are depth players. The best option is to turn to Udoh at RT and then hope Bradbury can make it back in time for the playoffs. With 4 of the 5 starters in place, the Vikings’ OL can hopefully still function at a pretty good level.

What’s Kevin O’Connell’s Solution?

The old football saying is that “it’s about the Jimmies and the Joes, not the Xs and the Os.” In other words, success on the football field primarily comes down to talent. Scheme is secondary.

Nevertheless, a coach can help his OL. Finding ways to get the ball out of Kirk Cousins’ hands in a hurry can make a difference, especially early in a game. Getting the ball to the flats can force a defense to go east/west rather than north/south. In so doing, the front seven can sometimes play things just a touch slower since the ball is commonly toward the sideline.

Relying on tight ends and/or receivers to help with blocking responsibilities – which is to say nothing of fullback C.J. Ham – can also help. Plus, running the football successfully can make life easier.

O’Connell and his staff will certainly be thinking of all kinds of ways he can help his team overcome the suddenly thin offensive line, but it won’t be an easy task.

Minnesota’s next game takes place on Sunday when they travel to Soldier Field to take on the Bears.

Editor’s Note: Information from Pro Football Reference helped with this piece.