Vikings Offensive Lineman’s Struggle Continues

Biggest Draft Mistakes
Jan 9, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings center Garrett Bradbury (56) before the snap against the Chicago Bears during the second quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

The Vikings have watched three seasons of Garrett Bradbury handling the middle of the offensive line. The upcoming season is the last of his rookie contract, and he will be an unrestricted free agent in the next offseason. His struggles are well documented, and his PFF grades reflect what most followers of the Vikings already know about their offensive lineman. The positive news is that his grades are consistent. The bad news, however, is that the grades aren’t any good:

  • 2019: 57.8
  • 2020: 61.4
  • 2021: 60.2

Those grades rank him 28th, 25th, and 29th, respectively, among centers. The grades look even worse considering that he was a first-rounder, the 18th overall pick. No center was drafted higher since the Patriots drafted Damien Woody in 1999 with the 17th pick. He was supposed to handle the center duties for a decade, but his future with the organization is in jeopardy. General manager Adofo-Mensah declined his fifth-year option. His Achilles heel is the pass protection.

Garrett Bradbury
Garrett Bradbury

He annually ranks among the worst pass protectors in the game. In 2021, he was benched for his backup center Mason Cole for a while. Cole left and signed a lucrative deal with the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Vikings, meanwhile, seem to trust Bradbury since they didn’t draft or sign any real competition for him.

His strength is run blocking. Per PFF, he’s about an average run blocker. The old regime, especially Zimmer and Spielman, put a big emphasis on that. The only possible alternative for 2022 is moving Chris Reed from guard to center. But that’s highly unlikely.

Camp Struggles

Bradbury talked about how he added weight in the offseason, which could get him more power to match up against the most powerful players in the league. The Vikings’ offensive lineman regularly struggles against players like Kenny Clark and Akiem Hicks. Granted, both belong in the group of the best interior pass rushers in the NFL. However, he has been pushed around at an unacceptable frequency by those two and others in the past.

In training camp so far, he struggled against the newly signed defensive tackle, Harrison Phillips.

While Phillips might be strong, he’s not in a tier with the likes of Aaron Donald, Fletcher Cox, Kenny Clark, or Vita Vea. At this stage in Bradbury’s career, every little observation about his struggles is a big deal, even if it’s just training camp.

The number one issue has always been his anchor. He has never been able to keep his ground when a strong defender started a bull rush. The biggest reason for that is his frame of about 300 lbs.

Bradbury’s Brutal Program

In Week 1, he will meet Kenny Clark when the Packers come to town. Just one week later, the Vikings go to Philadelphia. Fletcher Cox has been one of the elite interior linemen for years, and he’s not the only scary opponent for the Vikings center. The Eagles also selected Jordan Davis in the first round. Davis is one of the largest human beings in the league and a powerful player.

Minnesota Vikings center Garrett Bradbury. Green Bay, Wis. Wm. Glasheen USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin.

The Vikings were patient with their center. Even when most fans wanted to upgrade the position during the 2022 offseason, they stayed committed to Bradbury. However, this has the potential to be a disaster if they can’t figure out a way to help him. When he’s isolated against a strong bull-rushing player, Kirk Cousins has to watch out. Any QB under fire from the interior struggles, especially pocket passers like Cousins. Tom Brady is a famous one. Most defensive coordinators want to pressure him in the middle. That’s why his teams always try to put strong offensive linemen there — to provide a good pocket.

The 2022 season is Bradbury’s last chance to show that he deserves to get an extension by the Vikings or sign somewhere else to become a starter. Once teams view him as backup, getting another chance is not easy. Early indications are that his struggles didn’t go anywhere.

Janik Eckardt is a football fan who likes numbers and stats. The Vikings became his favorite team despite their quarterback at the time, Christian Ponder. He is a walking soccer encyclopedia, loves watching sitcoms, and Classic rock is his music genre of choice. Follow him on Twitter if you like the Vikings: @JanikEckardt