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PFF Predicts that the Vikings Offensive Line Will be One of the Worst Units in the League in 2018

I Hate to Say I Told You So...

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If you’ve followed or it’s main podcast, The purpleJOURNAL Podcast, this off-season, you’ll know that I’ve fluctuated between completely panicked and downright hopeless when it comes to what is arguably the most important position group on any football team, the offensive line or namely, the Vikings offensive line. I was one of the first and loudest proponents of the Vikings adding quarterback Kirk Cousins earlier this off-season and when passionately debating whether or not the Vikings should break the bank to acquire him with fellow host of the purpleJOURNAL Podcast Luke Braun, who rightly pointed out that Cousins has struggled while under pressure in his career, I stated that I wasn’t particularly worried about that, as the Vikings would still have the money and draft picks necessary to add some offensive line depth (and potential starters) as the off-season progressed. The draft and the rest of free agency have come and gone and depending on what happens with second round pick Brian O’Neill, the Vikings will most likely end up going into the season with a group of offensive lineman that struggled mightily in the playoffs last season, with Nick Easton returning at left guard but without arguably the best player on the line in Joe Berger at right guard. The only silver lining is that Mike Remmers will be playing at right guard as opposed to left guard, but that isn’t enough to alleviate the concern that people like me have had about this unit and what it means for this teams chances in a crazy competitive NFC and now someone at Pro Football Focus is joining in and stealing my thunder (kidding (sort of)) by shining a light on the potential disaster that is the 2018 Minnesota Vikings offensive line.

Mike Renner of PFF recently ranked all 32 offensive line units and had the Vikings all the way down at 28. Of the unit, he said:

“28. Minnesota Vikings

While the Vikings line certainly made strides in 2017, Case Keenum was still the third-most frequently pressured quarterback in the NFL. After investing heavily in it last offseason, their starting five may very well remain status quo heading into 2018.

The only likely change is if second-round pick Brian O’Neill can win the starting right tackle job. Based on his 1-on-1 performances at the Senior Bowl though, where he won only 27 percent of his reps, he may not be NFL ready anytime soon.”

I hate to say I told you so… But, yeah. After the draft I wasn’t necessarily angry, as I was just confused as to why the Vikings ended up taking another corner in the first round when they obviously had so many needs at the offensive line position. After an off-season last year in which the team seemed to be making all the right moves to build a serviceable line after a 2016 season that was a complete disaster mostly thanks to a offensive line that was patchwork at best and then historically bad after the older, more injury prone offensive lineman starting doing what they did best and getting injured (and aging). For whatever reason, call it greed, the Vikings rolled the dice at the end of the first round this past April in drafting Mike Hughes, as they most likely thought that they would have a bunch of interior lineman to choose from with their second pick the next day. That clearly didn’t end up happening and while some people, whom I really respect, are really bullish on Brian O’Neill and his potential to contribute both this season and the future, it’s safe to say that the Vikings plan back in April backfired big time and they’re now attempting to compensate for that by doing what they did during the playoffs last year which is moving Remmers to guard.

I’ve been talked off the ledge by other writers for purplePTSD and VikingsTerritory, who have said that O’Neill will contribute earlier than expected, as he’s been able to put on a tremendous amount of weight this off-season. A former tight end, perhaps the reason that O’Neill was blown up off the ball in the above-mentioned Senior Game was simply because he didn’t have the weight necessary to play his position and now that he’s weighing in at over 300 pounds, it could mean that he could fill-in this season if/when needed. That raises the question as to what the team would do with Riley Reiff, the left tackle who they brought in last off-season (outside of what I’ve heard which is basically that the team could cut Reiff for the cap space but that doesn’t help the team now or this season). Reiff did play some guard in college, so perhaps they could move him to left guard, Easton to center or right guard and then Elflein to right guard (as he did play some guard in college, also). Elflein played both left and right guard at Ohio State, as recently as his junior year in which he played all 13 games at the right guard spot. That could allow Remmers to play right tackle, which’d be a better scenario than Rashod Hill playing the position. Considering the fact that the line was the reason that the offense turned the ball over twice early in the NFC Championship game with Hill at right tackle, which basically ruined any momentum that they did have, one has to worry about what this means about the 2018 season.

Either way, the fact that it’s the middle of July and we’re having these conversations is nigh infuriating, as you’d think that the team that just gave out the biggest contract in NFL history would want to protect that investment. The only actual silver lining is the potential that the team will be able to snag some depth during training camp once teams start making cuts of veteran players to save cap space (or perhaps even some younger players get cut by a team that has actually done their due diligence and built a team/offense around their offensive line). We have all seen, recently, what can happen to a season when the offensive line falls apart and while it may be hyperbolic to compare the current Vikings line to the unit this team had during the 2016 season, it’s only one or two injuries away from being in a similar position and basically destroying a rare draft pick at the position because they end up using that young player as a band-aid and destroying their confidence a la T.J. Clemmings (with the player in this instance being Brian O’Neill). I really wouldn’t mind if I ended up being wrong about all this because it’d mean great things for the team, but considering that PFF is now putting numbers behind my feeling of panic, it’s starting to look like my biggest fears are coming true.

But, I hate to say I told you so…

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Joe Johnson

Joe Johnson started back in May of 2015 and has talked Vikings online since the advent of the internet, namely on Reddit's /r/MinnesotaVikings section under the username p_U_c_K. He purchased before the 2017-18 season, used to write for and is the host of the purpleJOURNAL Podcast, as well.

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  1. Its kind of hard to argue that the O-line isn’t a concern. But the reality is, that lack of quality O-line is a common problem among the majority of NFL teams in the league. We do have a lot of question marks, but there are some promising players. We just don’t have any dominant stars. But we have a whole bunch of OK guys. I think we have enough to get it done, and we could be really good if guys like O’neill, Gossett, Aviante Collins, and Isidora break out. Lets give Spielman and Co. the benefit of the doubt and assume they know what they’re doing. SKOL

  2. If you are going to quote PFF to backup skepticism of the OL (all serious fans are worried about this so not a big discovery as it is the only potential weak spot), you should at least mention that PFF is very bullish on the Vikings overall. It is about building a team that wins. NFC Championship game last year, action versus words. They are even better this year. I’m betting on Zimmer / Spielman. Hughes was the best available, they have a philosophy / strategy that wins and they stick to it regardless of what us arm chair GMs think. I respect that. Great time to be a Viking’s fan.

  3. Really?! I struggle to see why everyone thinks our oline is so terrible. They were 7th in the NFL in sacks allowed last year, giving up only 27. They were 7th in the NFL in rushing yards. They pass protected good enough to allow deep, explosive throws to develop. Everyone expects them to regress and we only lost Berger, who was solid but also part of our line two years ago when they absolutely stunk. I feel like since the team is stacked people want to look for an area to nitpick. It’s the worst position group on the team, but after last season I can’t say they aren’t Top 20 at the least. Our line was a big reason for our success last year. Skol.

  4. I don’t think our line is that as terrible as what everyone is saying, especially PFF. Their grading can be good but sometimes makes you scratch your head and wonder. Remember Easton and Elflein were hurt. We also ran the ball very well without Cook. Jet and Tay Train are very good backs, but not elite. Why did we run the ball so well? Our line. Keenum may have had the line look good alot of times but also there were many times he had lots of time. I’m pretty confident they will be fine barring any major injuries. I couldn’t be more excited than the upcoming 2018 season. SKOL

  5. I think it is really hard to evaluate an offensive line when you don’t have stability at QB. Just look at Vikes QB over Zimmer’s tenure. Teddy was above the curve in athletic ability and football IQ and was improving as a passer but doesn’t have elite arm talent. Bradford has elite arm talent and high football IQ but no mobility, so they had to completely change the playbook for him. Then Keenum was more mobile than Teddy but his arm talent is limited and really forced them into using a specific part of the playbook. I did feel like Case’s mobility made the vikes O line look better in pass protect than it actually was. I think it remains to be seen with Cousins. I think he has elite arm talent and can throw accurately on plays where he is moving – its up to the coaches to find the right balance like they did with Case last year. I also think that we’re going to see an even more evident shift from the power running line during AP’s tenure with Vikes to an O Line that moves and can pull. Vikes have to hope that both Easton and Elflein have fully recovered from their injuries and that these injuries haven’t derailed their career path. O’Neill fits the attribute style of a line based on movement as opposed to power so I’m optimistic he’ll have an impact sooner rather than later. I’m also not expecting Rashod Hill to be an all-pro but for a guy they picked up off Vikes practice squad he’s done really well. O line is a significant chess piece for Vikings – its up to the coaches to maximize their talent. Skol!