Bookends Benefitting Vikings Big Time

There was a time not long ago when the Minnesota Vikings offensive line had more holes than swiss cheese. With a relatively immobile quarterback under center, that was never going to be a recipe for success. The development from a second-year left tackle has been amazing, though, and weakness is becoming a strength.

Rashod Hill and Riley Reiff, at times, all gave Kirk Cousins little opportunity to find success in the pocket. Dalvin Cook is among the best running backs across the entire NFL, but lanes simply became tougher to open up as the line struggled. Garret Bradbury allowed pressures up the middle, and right tackle Brian O’Neill often found himself as the only thing that worked.

Fast forward to where we are now, and Christian Darrisaw’s emergence has all but transformed the unit. After falling down the draft board a season ago, the Vikings wound up with a superstar in their lap. It took some time for Mike Zimmer to put Darrisaw in the starting lineup, but the youngster hasn’t released his grip on the role since.

Per PFF, the Vikings Top 2022 Players from Best to Worst: After Week 5
Nov 28, 2021; Santa Clara, California, USA; Minnesota Vikings offensive tackle Christian Darrisaw. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports.

Through eight weeks, the Vikings left tackle ranks as the third-best offensive tackle in football per Pro Football Focus. Thor Nystrom notes that across 306 opportunities in pass protection, Darrisaw has allowed a perfect zero sacks and only seven hurries. Doing all of that without making mental mistakes or taking any penalties is another boost in and of itself.

The Vikings knew what they had in O’Neill as they’ve already locked him up to a contract extension. Guard Ezra Cleveland has looked strong in the middle, and Bradbury has hardly been the turnstile he was the past couple of seasons. With Darrisaw looking elite at such an important position, protecting Cousins’ blindside, the offensive line has been better than Minnesota fans have seen in years.

Where Darrisaw goes from here is anyone’s guess. He’s still only 23 years old and has just 17 career starts under his belt. If the development has been this drastic early on, though, and the production continues to be this good, it’s not hard to imagine that Minnesota may have the best left tackle in football for years to come.

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Ted Schwerzler is a blogger from the Twin Cities that is focused on all things Minnesota Twins and Minnesota Vikings. He’s active on Twitter and writes weekly for Twins Daily. As a former college athlete and avid sports fan, covering our pro teams with a passion has always seemed like such a natural outlet.