Death, Taxes, and a Poor Vikings OL

Minnesota Vikings offensive tackle Brian O’Neill (75) readies at the line of scrimmage in the third quarter during an NFL football game against the Chicago Bears, Sunday, Dec. 20, 2020, in Minneapolis. The Bears defeated the Vikings 33-27. (AP Photo/David Berding)

You’ve likely heard the old saying that death and taxes are among life’s only constants. It may be time to add a poor Vikings OL to that list.

PFF released their OL rankings after fourteen weeks. Predictably, Minnesota did poorly, coming in at 25th overall:

Christian Darrisaw was a significant upgrade for Minnesota when he was on the field, allowing 14 total pressures on 250 pass-blocking snaps compared to 20 pressures from Rashod Hill’s 215 such snaps. When Darrisaw was injured, however, the Vikings shuffled three different positions to replace him, making the entire line notably worse. Right tackle Brian O’Neill is the unit’s only member to play more than 100 snaps and earn a 60.0-plus PFF pass-blocking grade.

Now, a few words need to be added to unpack things a little bit.

Rashod Hill has had a difficult year, so much so that it appears he no longer has a role with the team. Instead of turning to their backup LT when Christian Darrisaw went down, the Vikings instead opted to reshuffle most of the line by kicking Oli Udoh over to LT. The domino effect meant Garrett Bradbury had to be put back in at center and Mason Cole over to RG. That’s a lot of work to avoid needing to play Hill. The point I’m making is that the team recognizes how poor Hill is and have sought to rectify the situation. A healthy Darrisaw would mostly assuage these LT concerns.

Furthermore, the improved play along the iOL may relegate Minnesota’s next most worrisome o-linemen – Udoh – to the bench. Udoh has been a penalty machine, routinely pushing the Vikings offense in the wrong direction. Cole, in contrast, has been a reasonably strong option along the interior. Far from spectacular, Cole has raised the floor by offering some good reps in the run game. Currently, he is PFF’s 8th-ranked center, though it should be remembered that he has played these past couple games at RG.

Bradbury has also done well recently. I was among those who believed his days in a purple uniform may be over. Two strong games, though, means he is right back in the mix. In all likelihood, the Vikings will have an o-line combo (from left to right) that consists of Darrisaw-Cleveland-Bradbury-Cole-O’Neill. That’s a super athletic OL that ought to find at least some success.

The Bears will present a real challenge with Robert Quinn and Khalil Mack coming off the edge. The Darrisaw/O’Neill tandem at least offers some hope of slowing those two. Cleveland has quietly been a nice option at LG, and some continued success from Bradbury & Cole would mean the Vikings at least have a serviceable OL rather than a poor one.