Vikings Offensive Line and the Big ‘Maybe’

Vikings Offensive Line and the Big 'Maybe'
Kirk Cousins and Vikings OL

You are back in familiar Minnesota Vikings offseason territory — and you never really left.

Annually since around 2013, onlookers of the Vikings peer at the offensive line depth chart and whisper, “Well, hopefully, this group actually works.” Then, the regular season begins, and it is evident the solution was half-measured.

This was the case under former head coach Mike Zimmer especially, but he no longer works for the Vikings. Instead, Minnesota “got with the times,” hiring a head coach named Kevin O’Connell from the Los Angeles Rams who has an offense-first background. Along with Sean McVay, O’Connell helped unlock Matthew Stafford for Super Bowl fruition.

Question Answered: O'Connell Arriving or Not, Stafford's Case for HOF, Cousins Landing Spot
Kevin O’Connell and Matthew Stafford

There is, in fact, a reasonable chance O’Connell and his staff know how to coach an offensive line more efficiently than Zimmer and his lieutenants. The bar is not high too clear.

And based on current offensive personnel, O’Connell-smarter-than-Zimmer has to be the working theory for improvement. This was the 2021 offensive line, in its top form:

  • LT – Christian Darrisaw
  • LG – Ezra Cleveland
  • C – Garrett Bradbury
  • RG – Mason Cole
  • RT – Brian O’Neill

And, as of March 28th, this is the projected Vikings offensive for 2022 before the NFL draft:

  • LT – Christian Darrisaw
  • LG – Ezra Cleveland
  • C – Garrett Bradbury
  • RG – Jesse Davis
  • RT – Brian O’Neill

Unless a new free agent is added with unicorn money from somewhere, another high draft pick is used on an offensive trenchman, or an unforeseen trade is on the way — this is the fivesome in the trenches.

The only difference, for now, is Jesse Davis. And Davis is not a miracle worker.

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The good thing about Davis? He has a starting pedigree, compiling 72 starts in five seasons with the Miami Dolphins. The man is a Sunday gamer — but he’s just not that prolific. Davis, 30, has never tallied a grade above 65.0 per Pro Football Focus in a single season.

Use the litmus test to determine if he excites you. It’s the 2022 NFC Championship, the Vikings miraculously made it, and the Rams are on the other side of the field. Do you trust Davis won’t be eaten for lunch by Aaron Donald? Nope.

Of course, Donald eats everyone for every meal, but a strong guard to wrestle with him would be preferable, particularly when the stakes are high.

Just like the Vikings offseason plan so far — you know, the one where the franchise merely banks on Zimmer as the problem for everything in 2021 — the Vikings are hoping the offensive line can be tweaked and enhanced by new coaching.

Perhaps it’ll work, and fans are just scarred from menial OL offseason strategies of the past.

Yet, here we are, one month from the NFL draft, and the Vikings upcoming offensive line plan for an all-in season is a big maybe. Sound familiar?

Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sally from Minneapolis. His Viking fandom dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ and The Doors (the band).