The Vikings Offensive Line May not Be Resolved Based on Comments from the Head Coach

NFL: New England Patriots at Minnesota Vikings
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Last week, the Minnesota Vikings made the decision to re-sign Dalton Risner.

When that happened, many assumed it would put an end to any questions regarding the Vikings offensive line in 2024 as Risner started 11 games at left guard for Minnesota during the 2023 season. However, it may not be as simple as folks initially thought regarding the left guard position.

Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell talked to the media earlier this week about the state of the roster heading into OTAs and mandatory minicamp, and he made a few interesting comments regarding the left guard battle.

Vikings Offensive Line May Still Be in Flux

Vikings offensive line
Dec 24, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell looks on during the second quarter against the Detroit Lions at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

Before Risner came back to Minnesota, the assumption was that Blake Brandel would kick into that starting spot. It seems the versatile offensive lineman will still be in the mix for that left guard role even with Risner back in the building.

“Really thought Dalton did a lot of good things when he got here last year, but at the same time, Blake has been a guy, really since he’s gotten here, been asked to really be ready to play two or three different spots at one time. So our challenge to Blake was really embrace that left guard spot through the spring.”

Brandel, a sixth-round draft pick back in 2020, has been a security net across essentially the entire offensive line throughout his first four seasons in the NFL. Beginning his career as an offensive tackle, the Oregon State product started games at both left tackle and right tackle for the Vikings in 2022.

Vikings Activate Blake Brandel Off IR
Aug 27, 2021; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Minnesota Vikings offensive tackle Blake Brandel (64) stretches before the game against the Kansas City Chiefs at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Then, in 2023 Brandel switched to guard in order to help fill depth needs at those positions. It proved to be a worthwhile change as he made two starts at right guard last season when Ed Ingram was battling through injury.

The big question with Brandel playing left guard is that he has never played the position at either the collegiate or NFL level. Meanwhile, Risner has five seasons of starting experience at that spot in the NFL. However, O’Connell went on to praise Brandel for the gains he’s seen now that he’s been focused entirely on that spot.

“We’ve seen the gains off that between not only Blake, but his fit amongst those five offensive linemen. And then there was a purpose and plan in bringing Dalton back to create a very competitive situation at that left guard spot. We want to play the best five guys we can. Could see a bunch of different combinations of guys in there.”

Oct 2, 2022; London, United Kingdom; Minnesota Vikings offensive tackle Blake Brandel (64) during the NFL International Series game at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Peter van den Berg-USA TODAY Sports

For now, it appears that Brandel may actually continue gaining steam towards that starting left guard role, even with Risner back on the roster, as long as his progression continues to garner praise from the head coach.

It looks like offensive line will continue to be a storyline for the Vikings as we gear up for the summer and training camp in July.


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

Josh Frey is a Class of 2020 graduate of The College of Idaho and managing editor of PurplePTSD.com. When he’s not writing about the NFL, Josh enjoys running, gaming, or rooting for the Milwaukee Brewers and Bucks. Check out his Twitter account: @Freyed_Chicken.

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