One of the Vikings’ Starting Offensive Linemen May be Asked to Switch Positions

Oct 1, 2023; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA; Carolina Panthers fans in the fourth quarter at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Unless Dalton Risner gets re-signed, Minnesota will be facing some uncertainty at the left guard position. One of the Vikings’ starting offensive linemen may be the solution.

Earlier in the offseason, Josh Frey covered the Blake Brandel deal – 3 years at $9.5 million – while suggesting that the versatile depth player may soon become the LG1: “Brandel’s longer term deal with the Vikings makes it seem as if he could be the team’s backup plan at the starting left guard spot if Risner is not in the cards.”

The fit makes some sense. Prior to getting the RG2 assignment in 2023, Brandel was functioning as a backup tackle for the Vikings. In fact, he was tasked with filling in at left tackle when Christian Darrisaw went down with injury in 2022, so slotting him in as the starter at left guard would blend the guard assignment with playing along the left side.

One does wonder, though, if Minnesota will explore a different option. More specifically, the possibility of Ed Ingram hopping into the open left guard spot is something to keep in the back of your mind.

Consider the word from Frey: “Ed Ingram, Minnesota’s current right guard, spent the final three seasons of his collegiate career at LSU playing the left guard position, so in theory, Ingram could flip over to the left side of the offensive line while allowing Brandel to play right guard.”

Ed Ingram, One of the Vikings’ Starting Offensive Linemen, May be Asked to Flip to LG

Before arriving in the NFL, Ingram was a left guard.

While as LSU, Ingram was exclusively used at that specific spot from 2019-2021. The 2019 season featured 411 snaps at LG, the 2020 season featured 724 snaps at LG, and the 2021 season featured 806 snaps at LG. Otherwise, he picked up a goose egg in the other four categories.

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

The transition to the NFL didn’t go perfectly for Mr. Ingram. However, his resilience as a rookie was impressive, playing every single snap for the Vikings in the regular season and playoffs. He started all 17 games while getting a monopoly on the right guard snaps by being involved in all 1,168 plays. And then he started the playoff game while being involved in all 57 snaps.

His protection numbers, in contrast to his playing time, left something to be desired. PFF dinged him with allowing 11 sacks, 18 QB hits, and 58 pressures. It was ugly, folks.

Thankfully, the sophomore season went better for Ingram. He was down to 15 games and 958 snaps since he had to miss some time due to injury. His protection numbers took a modest step forward, though, allowing 5 sacks, 15 QB hits, and 42 pressures. Keep in mind that he was doing a lot of his pass protecting from within the context of Minnesota’s QB turmoil, a reality that does make life more difficult for the offensive line.

NFL: Green Bay Packers at Minnesota Vikings
Sep 11, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) throws a touchdown pass while being rushed by Green Bay Packers defensive end Dean Lowry (94) as guard Ed Ingram (67) blocks during the second quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Do the Vikings believe that Ingram could take a sizable leap forward if he went back over to the left side?

Jumping into the left guard opening would mean that he gets to partner with Christian Darrisaw. In theory, the soon-to-be fourth-year tackle could partner with the soon-to-be third-year guard to build an upside left side for years to come.

Brandel would then have the luxury of continuing to build off his experience from last season. The 27-year-old offensive lineman picked up 163 snaps at right guard last year and the coaches have been impressed by the work he has done. The contract proves as much but so, too, does the coaching staff’s consistent praise in press conferences.

Brandel, in short, is well respected in Eagan.

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

Generally speaking, coaches like as a little disruption as possible to their offensive line. Keeping Ingram at RG would mean there’s only a single opening to fill: left guard. But if there’s internal belief that Ingram can become an impact starter at LG while Brandel builds off his initial experience at RG, then a position switch may be in order.

Ed Ingram turned 25 on February 11th.

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.