Total panic ensued from Minnesota Vikings fans one week ago when Dakota Dozier re-signed with the team. To date, Minnesota has manufactured a handful of new free-agent signings — all defensive players. Stephen Weatherly (DE), Dalvin Tomlinson (3DT), Nick Vigil (LB), Patrick Peterson (CB), Mackensie Alexander (CB), and Xavier Woods (FS) are the fellows that should shore up head coach Mike Zimmer’s defense in 2021.
The direst roster need — before free agency and now — is a redesign of the offensive line. Year after year, the Vikings offense scrapes the bottom of the NFL for pass protection while placing as average-to-decent in run-blocking rankings.
So, when Dakota Dozier’s name was dropped as a re-signee, the fanbase was beset by frenzy. Dozier struggled mightily in 2020 with a 44.6 overall Pro Football Focus grade — and a severely low 36.7 pass-blocking score.
Folks perceived Dozier as the 2021 solution at offensive guard without considering that the Furman alumnus could be back on board as an LG2 commodity.
Guards like Forrest Lamp and Trai Turner are still available for purchase, so the re-upping of Dozier felt like a no thanks to those players. That could, in fact, be true — but the full story will not play out until after the 2021 NFL Draft.
Vikings team reporter, Eric Smith, weighed in on the start-or-sit topic regarding Dozier. Evidently, he was mass-emailed about the transaction as he is the reporter employed by the team itself.
Smith has a wildly different perception of the Dozier acquisition than the doomsayers. He asserts that Dozier is likely a reservist piece of the puzzle.
On Dozier returning to the team for 2021, Smith noted:
“For one, he knows the Vikings offensive system and is familiar with Vikings Dennison. Remember that the two were together in 2018 with the Jets before they both landed in Minnesota for the past two seasons. Also keep in mind Dennison’s impact on the run game that helped the Vikings rank fifth in rushing yards, sixth in rushing scores and fourth in yards per rush last season. Dozier was serviceable in 2019 in Purple, starting four games (three at right guard) and playing 362 total offensive snaps. Perhaps he is better suited for that role than being a full-time starter like 2020 when he played all 1,082 of Minnesota’s offensive snaps.”
Nowhere in those words does Smith say “Dozier will likely start.” If one’s goal is to be reasonable and objective, it’s probably a safe bet to realize that Zimmer knows Dozier floundered as a starter. His presence on the 2021 roster is likely a depth signing.
“What guarantee is there that Dozier will be the starter again or on the roster come September? He is among the options at left guard, a group that also includes the newly acquired Mason Cole. But let’s say the Vikings draft a star left guard in the first round of the draft, or even find a steal at that spot in the second or third round (depending on a potential trade)? If that happens, it’s likely that Dozier isn’t starting, and is either viewed as a solid backup who can fill in if needed like in 2019, or he isn’t on the roster if the Vikings want to go younger and give someone like Kyle Hinton a chance to fill a void as a reserve interior lineman. To close, Dozier was also signed on the cheap. The Vikings didn’t break the bank to bring him back, and I view it as a low-risk move. Just because he is on the roster now doesn’t mean he’ll be in the starting lineup.”
In March and now April, it is silly to lambast the roster with finality aforethought. The thing is not a finished product yet. The regular season does not start for five months. A draft will take place in three weeks. Dozens of free agents are unsigned.
The offensive line is not cemented as of now, and the likelihood of Dozier starting Week 1 is miniature.