A Glass-Half-Full Approach to Minnesota’s Underwhelming O-Line Ranking

Dalvin Cook / Brian O'Neill
Oct 24, 2019; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings offensive tackle Brian O’Neill (75) celebrates with offensive guard Pat Elflein (65) after running back Dalvin Cook (33) (not pictured) scored a touchdown in the second quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: David Berding-USA TODAY Sports

The fine folks at PFF churn out rankings like it’s going out of style. For the most part, these rankings provide good reading for fans and writers who enjoy seeing how their squad matches up. Their recent piece suggests Minnesota’s o-line still has some room to grow.

Rookie Christian Darrisaw looks like a major addition to the line that will pay dividends going forward, the first Minnesota has had since it drafted Brian O’Neill on the other side of the line. Darrisaw finished with a 71.8 PFF grade after allowing 22 pressures in 11 games. The tackles were the two best-graded members of the line, and the only two above 70.0 overall. O’Neill was the lone Vikings lineman to play snaps this season who earned a pass-blocking grade above 65.0, and that is where Minnesota’s biggest area to target improvement needs to be.

As the above quotation suggests, Minnesota has some reason for optimism. Sure, the o-line too often resembled a sieve at various points over Zim’s time as head coach, but there’s finally some legit reason to have optimism.

Brian O’Neill is already a rock-solid NFL tackle. Christian Darrisaw is on his way to similarly establishing himself as a strong tackle. He played 652 snaps along the offensive line, finishing with the 15th-best run blocking score in the league. He’s a mauler in the run game who has the necessary strength/athleticism combo to continue developing in pass pro. That pair is a major reason why the Vikings should feel reasonably hopeful moving forward, especially since Ezra Cleveland took a step forward this season.

Earlier, Josh Frey offered a recap of Darrisaw’s rookie season, highlighting how the young fella overcame injuries to put forth a strong season that bodes well for the future: “Instead, Darrisaw passed nearly every test with flying colors. With a little improvement towards his hand technique, the Vikings left side of the o-line could be locked down between the combination of Darrisaw and Ezra Cleveland. Minnesota is one step closer towards their pursuit of a great offensive line.”

Moreover, my earlier conversation with SI‘s John McMullen very rightly discussed Minnesota’s o-line. He pointed out that the team’s inability to develop a strong OL really undermined the team’s efforts. He’s exactly right. All the talent in the world will struggle as long as the offensive line (and DL, for that matter) doesn’t elevate their play.

The next regime will need to figure out how to get the best out of the OL. That means leaning into the Darrisaw/O’Neill tandem as they seek to find solutions along the iOL.