Minnesota’s Offensive Line Is Sneaky Good

NFL: NFC Divisional Round-Minnesota Vikings at San Francisco 49ers
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Vikings’ offensive line is in the best spot that it’s been in what feels like an eternity.

If you had told any fan just a couple of years ago that Pro Football Focus would rank the offensive line 13th-best in the NFL, you probably would’ve been met with disbelief.

Aug 20, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Ty Chandler (32) celebrates with guard Ed Ingram (67) after scoring a touchdown during the second quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

However, with the groundwork laid by former GM Rick Spielman and some final dashes of salt on the mixture by current GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah, there is finally a legitimate offensive line again in the Twin Cities.

Zoltan Buday explains his ranking:

“Although left tackle Christian Darrisaw was not able to replicate his breakout 2022 campaign, he still finished 2023 as the third-highest-graded offensive tackle in pass protection despite battling injuries.

While the interior trio of Dalton Risner, Garrett Bradbury and Ed Ingram is average at best, the offensive tackle duo of Darrisaw and Brian O’Neill makes the Vikings’ line an above-average unit.”

There is quite literally no arguing that the Minnesota Vikings claim one of the best offensive tackle duos in the sport, that of left tackle Christian Darrisaw and right tackle Brian O’Neill.

offensive line
Sep 19, 2022; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Haason Reddick (7) against Minnesota Vikings offensive tackle Christian Darrisaw (71) at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

O’Neill has always been one of the unsung heroes on the team, quietly being one of the most reliable offensive linemen in the entire NFL. He had to face a revolving door of left tackles to begin his career, but the Vikings found his perfect running mate in Virginia Tech product Christian Darrisaw in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft.

Between those two pillars, it is solid enough, but the play isn’t on par with the standard that the tackles have set. If “average center” was a term in the dictionary, a picture of Garrett Bradbury would accompany it. The same goes for right guard Ed Ingram at the moment, who, outside of his really atrocious moments in his rookie year, has been a fine blocker for Minnesota, specifically in the run game.

Nov 5, 2023; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Brandon Powell (4) celebrates after a touchdown with guard Dalton Risner (66) against the Atlanta Falcons in the second half at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

The starting left guard spot seems to be up in the air, but it is ok to be confident in both men who are vying for the title. Dalton Risner is one, and he was the starter at left guard for most of the 2023 season after his arrival a couple of weeks into the season.

Blake Brandel is the other man fighting for the right to party and is fresh off of a small extension that many believed signaled his promotion to the starting role before the front office eventually decided to bring Risner back for another season. Brandel was mostly a backup left tackle to begin his career, but the staff is confident enough in his abilities to give him a shot to win the starting left guard job.

Brian O'Neill
Oct 2, 2022; London, United Kingdom; Minnesota Vikings offensive tackle Brian O’Neill (75) during the NFL International Series game at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Peter van den Berg-USA TODAY Sports

Just because the interior offensive line isn’t the caliber of the outside guys doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing. The starting tackles are just really good. Fans are plenty used to having their offensive lines duct-taped together and having what feels like a million different combinations over the course of a season in the trenches, but Minnesota has finally seemingly put together an offensive line that is deserving of continuity.

It is not a perfect offensive line, but there is no such thing as a perfect position group in the game of football. “Perfect” does not exist in this realm. After all the years of question marks and guys that were out of the league just as fast as they were cast out of it, there is a capable offensive line wearing the Minnesota Vikings royal purple and gold.