Vikings Coach Is Excited About What the New Guy Can Do

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Offensive coordinator Wes Phillips previously worked with Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell in Washington and in Los Angeles. When O’Connell received the job offer from Minnesota, he took Phillips with him. He had the role of the tight ends coach and pass game coordinator in Sean McVay’s staff while O’Connell was the offensive coordinator, the role Phillips has now in O’Connell’s staff.

Vikings Coach Is Excited About What the New Guy Can Do

The duo has been working together for years and they appear to have wonderful synergy. In their first year with the Vikes, they coached the 8th-best offense in points and the 7th-best in yards per game. Despite the success, they have made some minor changes in the offseason. The offensive coordinator is thrilled about one of his new guys.

Vikings Coach Is Excited About What the New Guy Can Do
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He was asked about tight end Josh Oliver who signed with the Vikings in free agency:

Have you seen the guy? He’s obviously a physical presence. I mean he’s over 270 pound tight end. He’s a very large man [with] really long arms, huge hands. He’s strong. He has got all of those things going for him. The interesting thing about Josh is coming out he was really more of a pass catcher. It was like ‘Oh he’s got the size, we got to teach this guy how to block if we were to bring him in’ because he caught a lot of passes at San Jose and he ran 4.5 something. When he gets that train rolling, he’s just a tough cover due to his size, his length, his catch radius.

We had a play down at the goalline a couple of days back where a linebacker had great coverage on him and, it was basketball, he just boxed him out, extended his arms and there was just no way the kid could cover him. We’re excited about what he can do both in the run game and in the pass game but certainly that physical presence in the run game is going to help us.

Wes Phillips, Vikings OC

When GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah signed Oliver as his first move in free agency, it raised a lot of eyebrows. A second tight end for $7 million per season appeared to be an odd move considering the Vikings’ problems with the cap space and the roster holes, especially on the defense.

Regardless, Oliver is an interesting player who could stun people. He is viewed as a blocking tight end with limited talent in the passing game but that is a myth that was mainly caused by his usage in Baltimore. The Ravens employ Mark Andrews who is one of the best tight ends in the business and an outstanding receiver. That combined with the high-volume rushing offense and the vertical passing attack built perfectly for Lamar Jackson’s abilities simply didn’t put Oliver in a position to show his skills in the passing game.

Baltimore Ravens tight end Josh Oliver (84) is embraced by center Tyler Linderbaum (64), right, as Baltimore Ravens tight end Mark Andrews (89), left, looks on after Oliver scored a touchdown during the fourth quarter of a regular season NFL football matchup Sunday, Nov. 27, 2022 at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville. The Jaguars edged the Ravens 28-27. [Corey Perrine/Florida Times-Union]

However, his blocking ability and size basically turned him into an additional offensive lineman. His PFF blocking grades are off the charts. The only TE with a better run block grade was his former teammate Isaiah Likely. He caught only 23 passes in the last couple of seasons for 215 yards and 2 touchdowns.

The dominant run-blocking ability is supposed to help improve the rushing game. Minnesota ranked 28th in rushing yards and 25th in yards per attempt. Granted, only four teams rushed fewer times than the Vikings. Reasons for that were the limited efficiency, O’Connell’s offensive philosophy, and the need for comeback wins. The Vikings were 29th in rushing EPA/play, a disastrous number that shows the underwhelming efficiency. Adding an exceptional blocker can help the team in that area.

Baltimore Ravens tight end Josh Oliver (84) spikes the ball after a touchdown score as tight end Mark Andrews (89) looks on and Jacksonville Jaguars safety Andre Cisco (5) is slow to get up after an attempted stop during the fourth quarter of a regular season NFL football matchup Sunday, Nov. 27, 2022, at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville. The Jaguars edged the Ravens 28-27. [Corey Perrine/Florida Times-Union]

Oliver’s contributions in the rushing game will also take some load off T.J. Hockenson, as he can now focus more on his job as a receiver and be a real weapon for quarterback Kirk Cousins who had to rely too much on Justin Jefferson in 2022. Still, Oliver will also play a role as a pass-catcher. He fired up 709 yards and 4 touchdowns in his senior season at San Jose State and he came into the league as a receiver with shaky blocking. The underrated athlete can be a contributor as a real threat in the passing game. Johnny Mundt caught 19 passes for 140 yards in 2022 and Oliver is more skilled and should top those statistics.

There’s a good chance fans of the purple team will be positively surprised about their new addition, considering how much the Vikings valued him in free agency and how Phillips raved about him.

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