Enough quarterback talk. Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty.
There’s little question as to which position group has been the Minnesota Vikings’ most improved unit of 2017.
Last year, Minnesota’s offensive line barely got their hands on opposing pass rushers (literally). This season, the bunch transformed into one of the best pass-protecting groups in the NFL. The elevated play from the men in the trenches has sprung Pro Bowl-caliber seasons from wide receiver Adam Thielen and quarterback Case Keenum.
Ranked dead last in the NFL last season, the Vikings rushing attack has been given a swift kick in the rear. Behind the revamped crew, future All-Pro running back Dalvin Cook led the league in rushing before a season-ending knee injury, while Jerick “Jet” McKinnon and Latavius “Tay Train” Murray have found their own success on the ground.
Unlike last season, this year’s offensive line has overcome injuries without suffering a noticeable drop-off in level of play. When injuries have occurred, the next man up has filled in admirably. Here are the different combinations the Vikings have used this season, courtesy of VT’s BJ Reidell:
Offensive line coach Tony Sparano has instilled a blue-collar mentality that each of his players has embodied. That mentality has been a quiet factor in the success of the offense. Operating behind Sparano’s gang, the Vikings currently have a top-5 NFL offense.
Here’s a quick look at how the Vikings offensive line has performed through Week 12.
According to Pro Football Focus, the Vikings offensive line ranked 29th in the league in 2016. In 2017, through 11 games, the unit is tied for first in the NFL in sacks given up with 12 (per NFL.com). Behind the new and improved Minnesota moving company, the Vikings offense ranks:
- 4th in total offense (375.7 YPG)
- 8th in rushing yards per game (124.5)
- 12th in passing yards per game (251.3)
Listed below are the Vikings’ offensive line starters, number of games played, Pro Football Focus (PFF) grade in parentheses, number of sacks allowed, number of false start penalties and number of holding penalties.
- LT Riley Reiff – 11 games played (53.6), 0 sacks allowed, 2 false starts, 0 holding penalties
- LG Nick Easton – 8 games played (42.4), 0 sacks allowed, 1 false start, 4 holding penalties
- C Pat Elflein – 11 games played (48.1), 2 sacks allowed, 0 false starts, 0 holding penalties
- RG Joe Berger – 11 games played (75.8), 1 sack allowed, 2 false starts, 0 holding penalties
- RT Mike Remmers – 8 games played (79.0), 2 sacks allowed, 0 false starts, 3 holding penalties
Listed below are the backup offensive linemen, number of games played, Pro Football Focus (PFF) grade in parenthesis, number of sacks allowed, number of false start penalties and number of holding penalties.
- Jeremiah Sirles – 9 games played (51.7), 0 sacks allowed, 1 false start, 0 holding penalties
- Rashod Hill – 6 games played (57.6), 0 sacks allowed, 0 false starts, 1 holding penalty
- Danny Isidora – 3 games played (29.0), 0 sacks allowed, 0 false starts, 0 holding penalties
If the offensive line continues to gel and improve their quality of play (which, by the numbers, looks like a definite possibility), the Vikings are going to be a tough team to stop. Minnesota’s mob has the ability to make things very difficult for the defenses of Atlanta, Carolina, Cincinnati, Green Bay, Chicago and any playoff opponent.