For the first time in years, the Minnesota Vikings have a real shot at putting together a SOLID offensive line, just in time for the regular season.
Can anyone really remember a time when a Vikings quarterback was well protected? Not within the past five, perhaps even 10 years. Hopefully you weren’t fooled by the 2017 front five… the Vikings had a scrappy escape artist by the name of Case Keenum back then. As elusive as a New Year’s resolution, he was able to mask many of the line’s woes in the hopes that plugging those holes will give the Vikings a shot at the first Super Bowl win in team history (something that few national sites believe is a possibility, outside of bet-pa.com).
But the past doesn’t really matter. The only thing Vikings fans can hope for is that GM Rick Spielman learned some lessons in building a Norse wall. The good news? He did. Unlike last year, Minnesota is poised to protect the $84 million man this season.
Here’s the proof:
As bad as the line has been, Spielman has made some smart moves along the way. Riley Reiff is no All-Pro, but he is reliable and experienced at left tackle. At 30 years old, he makes for a great leader. Opposite of Reiff, draft pick Brian O’Neill proved people wrong at right tackle last year. He didn’t allow a sack in 15 games played… so much for being undersized. With these two, there’s no need to trade for a guy like Trent Williams.
Drumroll, please. After seven long years, Rick Spielman finally spent a first round pick on an OFFENSIVE LINEMAN. Wow, what a relief. Everyone loves drafting athletic cornerbacks, but this pick was long overdue. Garrett Bradbury is the missing piece in the offensive line puzzle.
With Bradbury ready to start at center, new and experienced offensive line coach Rick Dennison can slide Pat Elflein back to guard, a position he mastered in college. Spielman also smartly traded for an experienced backup early last season, as Brett Jones is more than capable if the need arises.
Elflein looks like the obvious choice to start at left guard, and newly acquired veteran Josh Kline may start at right. But what makes this year different is the open competition for either of these spots. Even if Elflein and Kline win their respective gigs, there’s more talent waiting in the wings. Dru Samia and Danny Isidora are still learning the ropes, but don’t be surprised if one of them is starting by midseason.
The loss of Tony Sparano last year was both shocking and devastating to morale. He was a dedicated coach, and now Rick Dennison will try to fill his shoes. It’s a tall task, but Dennison has what it takes to make Sparano proud. With the aforementioned linemen and his new zone blocking scheme, Dennison will build a SOLID offensive line.