PFF Ranks Vikings' Offensive Line Among Bottom 10 in NFL
The Vikings' offensive line has been a shortcoming of the team for most of the last decade, and despite recent efforts to improve that unit, it still has a long ways to go before being considered a strength.
Pro Football Focus recently ranked all 32 offensive lines in the NFL, with the Vikings checking in at No. 23. That's firmly in the bottom half of the league, and it's just low enough to crack the bottom ten.
The Vikings would probably be lower if it weren't for their solid tackle duo of Riley Reiff and Brian O'Neill, as PFF explains:
Left tackle Riley Reiff has been a mid-tier option since coming over from the Detroit Lions; he’s had many solid games in his three years with the Vikings, but he has also had some duds, including a poor 31.6 pass-blocking grade against the San Francisco 49ers in the divisional round last year. On the plus side, Reiff is a solid zone blocker, and he had the 20th highest percentage of positively graded run blocks among 82 qualifying tackles last year.
Right tackle Brian O’Neill was right there behind Reiff and ranked 22nd in positively graded blocks — he’s another athletic zone blocker who fits well in Minnesota’s system. O’Neill has also been solid in pass protection in his two years in the league, with his 68.6 pass-blocking grade ranking in the top half of the league.
The two tackles received very similar PFF grades last year, with O'Neill (70.8) just above Reiff (69.5). However, the reason why Vikings fans are much more appreciative of the former than the latter has to do with age and contracts. O'Neill is just 24 and has a 2020 cap hit of $1.2 million, while Reiff is 31 and has a cap hit of $13.2 million.
The real problem when it comes to the Vikings' offensive line is the interior. Pat Elflein has been a bust at both center and left guard since being taken in the 2017 third round, and Garrett Bradbury showed some concerning signs of following down that same path last year (though he also demonstrated plenty of reasons to be optimistic about a sophomore leap). The best player on the Vikings' interior O-line last year was Josh Kline, who was released this offseason.
On the interior, left guard Pat Elflein has struggled no matter where he’s played on the line, and his 57.4 overall grade ranks just 105th out of 130 qualifying interior offensive linemen over the last three years. At right guard, Dakota Dozier is slated for the first extended starting action after his career — he’s failed to play more than 361 snaps in any of his five seasons — and he graded at just 51.5 across both guard positions and a little bit of center last season for the Vikings. Center Garrett Bradbury has the perfect skill set for Minnesota’s outside zone scheme, and he flashed it last season, though he struggled mightily in pass protection on his way to a 38.7 pass-blocking grade that ranked last among centers.
I would disagree with PFF here, because I think Dru Samia is far more likely to be the Vikings' starting right guard than Dozier. But still, there's a lot of uncertainty when it comes to the two guard spots in Minnesota.
Overall, the Vikings' offensive line is plenty capable when it comes to opening up holes in the running game. The front office has committed to finding athletic players who fit Gary Kubiak's zone-blocking scheme, and Dalvin Cook was able to have a breakout year in 2019 as a result. However, the line desperately needs to improve in pass protection. The Vikings were able to mitigate some of that weakness by using Kirk Cousins on tons of bootlegs and rollouts, but it's a problem that needs to be fixed.
The Vikings have a good zone-blocking line that gave their running backs the third-highest percentage of positively graded blocks per rush last season, but there are holes in pass protection that can be exploited, especially in must-pass situations against good defensive lines.
OL player previews:
- No. 78: Dakota Dozier
- No. 76: Aviante Collins
- No. 75: Brian O'Neill
- No. 74: Oli Udoh
- No. 73: Dru Samia
- No. 72: Ezra Cleveland
- No. 71: Riley Reiff
- No. 69: Rashod Hill
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