An Unsung, Much Needed Hero for the Minnesota Vikings
Most football fans spend their time cheering for “skill players” on their respective teams. With guys like Diggs, Thielen, and Cook, the Minnesota Vikings have their fair share of these athletes. However, there is one player not at a skill position who has quietly been the team’s best recent acquisition. That player is offensive lineman Josh Kline.
It is rare to see an article dedicated to a single offensive lineman. If that’s the case, it’s usually because the player is creating trade rumors, is in the middle of a contract holdout, or is playing so badly that it puts their respective quarterback in grave danger. Josh Kline does none of these.
— Minnesota Vikings (@Vikings) March 20, 2019
When the Vikings entered the offseason, GM Rick Spielman had a clear mission – get protection for Kirk Cousins. Fans applauded Spielman when he went all in on center Garrett Bradbury in the draft, but some were left scratching their heads when Slick Rick brought in Kline to play right guard. Surprisingly, Kline was the only big-name free agent that Spielman signed, and he was supposedly a far cry from some of the premiere talent on the market.
When it was revealed that Kline would become a Minnesota Viking, fans (including myself) were praying he would perform better in the north than he had with the Tennessee Titans. After all, he was ranked as the 53rd best guard while playing for the Titans. With experienced offensive line coach Rick Dennison soon to be training Kline and his new unit, it seemed like there was a chance for improvement.
Kline may have struggled in his final year in Tennessee, but he has had a turnaround like none other in Minnesota. Either Dennison is an absolute miracle worker of a coach, or Kline is the best mentee in the business. Whatever the case, Kline has played heroically since coming to the Vikings, transforming himself and the rest of the offensive line along the way. Pro Football Focus currently ranks the Vikings line as 11th best, a huge improvement from when they were 29th last year.
— Viktor Viking (@ViktorTheViking) September 26, 2019
The veteran right guard is thriving in Dennison’s zone-blocking scheme, and he more than holds his own in both pass protection and run blocking. He’s a big reason for the success of Dalvin Cook and Alexander Mattison. For the last few years, Minnesota’s running backs struggled to get anything going on the ground. That all changed this year. Cook currently leads the league in rushing yards and touchdowns, and Kline definitely plays a part in that.
His performance aside, Kline is also a great mentor for the right side of the line. Since arriving in 2017, left tackle Riley Reiff has added an excellent veteran presence to the left side of the Vikings line, but that attitude and experience was lacking on the right. Kline plays alongside two very young players, and his work ethic and talent is exactly what this group needs to see.
At the midseason mark, Kline seems like the steal of the offseason. Barring any major injuries, I bet he will continue to prove Spielman and the scouts right.