NFL Analyst Claims Vikings Have ‘Colossal Problem’
The Minnesota Vikings may be atop the NFC North with a fancy 3-1 record, but the team has a “colossal problem,” according to NFL analyst Matt Lombardo.
His concern stems from Minnesota’s offensive line, a longstanding bane for the team dating back a decade.
The Vikings offensive trenches actually performed average-to-decent through three weeks, but Lombardo claims a regression loomed in Week 4 against the New Orleans Saints, a franchise with a wimpy pass rush thus far in 2022.
The Vikings defeated the Saints 28-25, thanks to a game-winning field goal by kick Greg Joseph and a missed game-tying field goal from New Orleans’ Will Lutz.
Lombardo observed about the Vikings in Week 4, “When Kirk Cousins wasn’t getting sacked three times and hit eight times by the likes of Cam Jordan flying off the edge as Marcus Davenport stunted applying interior penetration, New Orleans’ pass rush was disrupting his rhythm from the pocket just enough to disrupt his throws.”
And before the Saints-Vikings tilt in England, no New Orleans player had more than six QB pressures.
The Saints were undermanned against the Vikings, missing a litany of key players, especially on offense. Lombardo noted about the depleted Saints, “against a team that isn’t missing its starting quarterback, starting running back, and top wide receiver, it’s tough to envision this [offensive] line — in its current form, not costing Minnesota dearly.
Second-year left tackle Christian Darrisaw led the Vikings for a second consecutive week in offensive grades from Pro Football Focus. He isn’t the problem. Brian O’Neill uncharacteristically struggled. Center Garrett Bradbury had a vintage game — that isn’t a compliment. Rookie Ed Ingram played well, and left guard Ezra Cleveland didn’t perform great.
In that vein, the Vikings offensive line was not in peak form — and it probably should’ve been against a Saints team that doesn’t generate much pass rush.
Still, the Vikings OL unit, on the whole, is much improved from the Mike Zimmer years. These are the starters PFF scores through four games:
- LT — Christian Darrisaw: 78.1
- LG — Ezra Cleveland: 62.7
- C — Garrett Bradbury: 61.9
- RG — Ed Ingram: 60.9
- RT — Brian O’Neill: 73.8
While that’s not the 1993 Dallas Cowboys fivesome, the Vikings offensive line has markedly improved from 2021 or any of the previous three years. The group ranks eighth in fewest sacks allowed and isn’t getting absolutely bullied, as was the case ad nauseam from 2018 to 2021.
Minnesota’s offensive trenches stabilizing essentially boils down to the production from Bradbury at center and Ingram at right guard. Those two spots have served as the Vikings scourge since quarterback Kirk Cousins arrived in town. If Bradbury and Ingram can be serviceable — or perhaps even good — the rest of the line is in good shape, particularly at RT and LT.
Opposing defenses have pressured Cousins on 25.7% of dropbacks per Stathead, the 12th-most in the NFL. So, Lombardo may be onto something — the mere fact that the Vikings OL isn’t elite is not new — but it has time to jell.
The Vikings take on the Chicago Bears in Minneapolis on Sunday.
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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).