Minnesota’s Options at Left Guard Aren’t Particularly Inspiring

Unless Dalton Risner gets brought back, Minnesota’s options at left guard aren’t super inspiring.

From left to right, the Vikings’ offensive line will look like this: Christian Darrisaw – Mystery Player – Garrett Bradbury – Ed Ingram – Brian O’Neill. The tackles are the strength, for both have solidified themselves as fringe elite players. Meanwhile, Bradbury has taken steps forward under Kevin O’Connell while Ingram has improved since being drafted in 2022. Who gets tossed into that LG opening?

Minnesota’s Options at Left Guard: Any Reason for Optimism?

Right now, Blake Brandel is probably the lead candidate, as several have noted. The problem is simply that Brandel has never played left guard, at least not at the NFL level.

A college tackle, Brandel has earned a ton of respect from the leaders in Eagan due to his capacity to play multiple different positions. He was the backup swing tackle for a bit and was sometimes used as a jumbo tight end while Klint Kubiak – remember him? – was calling the shots for the offense.

NFL: New England Patriots at Minnesota Vikings
Nov 20, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson (18) and wide receiver Adam Thielen (19) and offensive tackle Blake Brandel (64) and teammates react during the game against the New England Patriots at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

More recently, Brandel has been kicked inside. He filled in at right guard when Ingram needed to step back to get healthy in 2023. The Vikings’ coaching staff loves that about Brandel and it’s perhaps the main reason why the backup lineman snagged a 3-year commitment that’s sitting at $9.5 million.

Let’s assume, though, that Brandel jumps into the left guard spot and does well. Success, right? Well, not so fast.

Minnesota just lost their joker – no, not that Joker – the wild card they can play whenever the hand needs an added boost. Brandel can basically jump into any of the OL’s five spots and do a reasonably good job. Elevating him to being a starter, though, necessarily undermines that role for Mr. Brandel.

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Pittsburgh Steelers
Sep 17, 2017; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; The Minnesota Vikings offense lines up against the Pittsburgh Steelers defense during the third quarter at Heinz Field. The Steelers won 26-9. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Maybe Dan Feeney impresses, proving that he belongs as the LG1 for 2024. The 6’4”, 310-pound center/guard has played in 112 games, starting 65. So, it wouldn’t be odd for Feeney to see NFL action. The man has been doing so since getting scooped up at 71st in the 2017 NFL Draft.

Michael Jurgens, the 7th-Round rookie, seems like a brain. In fact, Kwesi Adofo-Mensah recently referred to him as a “technician,” which then gets connected to the lineman’s background studying mathematics. He’s depth, yes, but turning to him as an every-week starter would likely point toward something going wrong in Minnesota.

Consider the scouting blurb about Jurgens on NFL.com: “Solid three-year starter as a center/guard but will need to stick at center as his primary position. Jurgens uses accurate hands and consistent footwork to fit blocks with good centering, but he doesn’t have the core strength needed to displace opponents or keep from being pulled and shoved off balance by a strong nose tackle. He’s fairly average as an athlete but he does see the field well in pass protection and steadies the gaps around him.”

Based on the scouting blurb alone – which is to say nothing of lasting until 230th in the draft – Jurgens is best thought of as a depth piece for 2024.

Who else could slide into the opening?

Sep 24, 2022; Winston-Salem, North Carolina, USA; Wake Forest Demon Deacons offensive lineman Michael Jurgens (55) watches the replay while the Clemson Tigers bench celebrates an overtime victory at Truist Field. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Maybe Walter Rouse, a college left tackle, could get kicked inside. Ingram could get kicked over to left guard, his college position. Otherwise, the team would be left to someone currently outside of the organization, one of the lesser-known depth players, or one of the UDFAs.

If I’m the DC for a rival team, I’m marching into the Minnesota game with the plenty of plays to attack the iOL. More specifically, I’m looking to get one of my better pass rushers on the LG, whether by lining the player up directly across from that spot, running a stunt, or sending a blitz. Basically, create any bit of chaos for what looks to be one of the Vikings’ few weaknesses on offense.

Kevin O’Connell understands his team well and is planning for all kinds of solutions along the offensive line. Looking at the personnel, though, leaves some reasonable skepticism.

Editor’s Note: Information from Pro Football Reference, PFF, and Over the Cap helped with this piece.

K. Joudry is the Senior Editor for Vikings Territory and PurplePTSD. He has been covering the Vikings full time since the summer of 2021. He can be found on Twitter and as a co-host for Notes from the North, a humble Vikings podcast.