Brian O’Neill Suffered a Partially Torn Achilles in Week 17

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Sep 11, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings offensive tackle Brian O'Neill (75) and Green Bay Packers linebacker Rashan Gary (52) in action at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Minnesota Vikings right tackle Brian O’Neill was placed on IR on Tuesday after suffering what had previously been described as a “significant” calf injury by head coach Kevin O’Connell. Well, more details have come out regarding his injury, and on Wednesday, it was announced that O’Neill suffered a partially torn Achilles.

Initially, when O’Neill was placed on IR, there was a semblance of hope that he could potentially return to the Vikings if they somehow made the Super Bowl. Now, though, that possibility is completely out the window, and O’Neill’s season is officially over.

Ever since being drafted in the second round of the 2018 NFL Draft out of Pittsburgh, O’Neill has been a model of consistency for the Vikings. Week 18 against the Bears will be the first time in O’Neill’s career that he misses a game due to injury. He did not become the starter for the Vikings until Week 6 in his rookie season, and in 2019, he only sat out Week 17 because it was a meaningless game for Minnesota.

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Dec 5, 2021; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Minnesota Vikings offensive tackle Brian O’Neill (75) leads his team to the field to play the Detroit Lions at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: David Reginek-USA TODAY Sports

This consistency can also be seen in his PFF grades throughout the years. Here is O’Neill’s final grade for every season of his career:

  • 2018: 63.0
  • 2019: 70.7
  • 2020: 78.0
  • 2021: 73.4
  • 2022: 83.1

O’Neill has been a fabulous offensive tackle for the Vikings over his career, and last offseason, that consistently great play earned him a contract extension. He inked a 5-year/$92 million deal that will keep him in Minnesota through the 2026 season. This contract came on the heels of his first Pro Bowl selection in 2021.

In the wake of O’Neill as well as Austin Schlottmann going on IR, the Vikings also signed a pair of new offensive linemen on Tuesday: OT Bobby Evans (practice squad) and C Greg Mancz. Mancz has 32 career starts at center, which should place much more confidence than the zero starts that Chris Reed has at the position. Evans also spent the 2021 season with the Los Angeles Rams, winning a Super Bowl.

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Jul 31, 2022; Irvine, CA, USA; Los Angeles Rams tackle Bobby Evans (71) during training camp at UC Irvine. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Vikings are hoping O’Neill makes a full recovery by the start of the 2023 season, and that becomes a much more likely scenario given that it wasn’t a full Achilles tear. However, this remains a huge blow for the Vikings offensive line moving into the playoffs.

Minnesota did get some good news from the offensive line, though. Blake Brandel, who has been on IR with an MCL tear, apparently has a chance of returning for the playoffs. He filled in at left tackle for Christian Darrisaw, making three starts while the Vikings 2021 first-round pick recovered from concussions.

Assuming Brandel is able to make a full recovery, he would be a strong option to fill in for O’Neill moving into the Wild Card round. We’ll see what the Vikings offensive line looks like as they prepare for a playoff run.

Josh Frey is a Class of 2020 graduate of The College of Idaho with a bachelor’s degree in Creative Writing. He also earned minors in History, Human Biology, and Journalism. When he’s not writing about the NFL, Josh enjoys marathon training, playing video games, or rooting for the Milwaukee Brewers and Bucks. For more of his opinions, check out his Twitter account: @Freyed_Chicken.