Minnesota Vikings 2020 Offensive Line Preview
Watch the video above to see me discuss the state of the Vikings' offensive line. If you would prefer to read it, the full transcript is below:
What's up everybody, this is Will Ragatz with Sports Illustrated's InsideTheVikings.
Let's talk about the Vikings' offensive line.
It's a unit that has really been a weakness for a lot of the last decade, and hasn't been a true strength of the roster since the days in 2009 and 2010 when they had Bryant McKinnie and Steve Hutchinson and John Sullivan and Phil Loadholt up front.
Now, Rick Spielman and the front office have invested a lot of draft capital into that unit over the past few years and we started to see some improvement last year. But there's still a lot of room from growth from that group up front in protecting Kirk Cousins and opening up holes in the running game.
The interesting question is: who will be the five starters for the Vikings on the offensive line when they open the season against the Packers on September 13th? Of the five spots, you've only got two guaranteed starters. You've got Brian O'Neill at right tackle, who is the clear best player on the line; the 2018 second-round pick has been a revelation over the past couple years, only allowing one sack so far in his career. [He's] very, very athletic on the right side as well.
Then you've got 2019 first-round pick Garrett Bradbury at center. Now Bradbury struggled a little bit last year, but he showed plenty of flashes of dominance in the running game, just needs to get a little stronger in pass protection.
Where it gets interesting is at the other three spots. At the left tackle position, which is regarded as the most important position on the line, you've got veteran Riley Reiff, who was solid last year. But he hasn't really lived up to his contract that he signed prior to the 2017 season with the Vikings. The Vikings drafted Ezra Cleveland in the second round this year out of Boise State, so it'll be interesting to see how quickly they integrate Cleveland into there, especially in this shortened offseason.
Now the two guard spots – Rick Spielman has said that there's going to be open competition there. Last year's starters, Pat Elflein and Josh Kline, were okay but not great. Kline was solid, but then the Vikings released him this offseason, perhaps due to his concussion history and the fact that he's not a great fit for their zone-blocking scheme. Elflein is solid in run-blocking, but he gave up a lot of pressure last year in pass protection: 32 pressures, six sacks, both highs on the team.
So we'll see. There are a lot of players who could emerge at guard for the Vikings. Elflein could keep his job at left guard, but he could get some competition from players like Oli Udoh, Aviante Collins, Dakota Dozier – there's a lot of players who could step up there. The favorite to start at right guard is Dru Samia, the 2019 fourth-round pick out of Oklahoma who the Vikings are really high on.
So for me, the most interesting starting five for the Vikings – perhaps the most likely – is O'Neill at right tackle, Samia at right guard, Bradbury at center. I think those three are pretty solid. And then the left side, I think somebody like Udoh at left guard would be really interesting. With his size and length, he profiles as a tackle, but a move inside to guard could give the Vikings some great interior pass protection, especially compared to what Elflein did last year.
And then I think Reiff opens the season at left tackle, just because the Vikings will value that solid veteran presence, with Ezra Cleveland perhaps taking over at some point in the middle of the season.
For more detailed analysis of the Vikings' offensive line:
- Offensive Tackles Preview: Will Ezra Cleveland Start as a Rookie?
- Interior Offensive Line Preview: Can Garrett Bradbury Make a Leap?
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