The Vikings Offensive Line Is the Real Deal

can grab momentum
Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports.

For years and years, the offensive line was the punching bag in Minnesota. And indeed, they made it easy to complain. Long-developing pass plays didn’t exist in the playbook because those only work if the quarterback can stand in the pocket for a while. Struggles up front regularly showed why the Vikings aren’t real contenders, especially against good teams. Out of nowhere, these issues are gone.

The Vikings Offensive Line Is the Real Deal

We should go back almost four years to the 2019 playoffs. The Vikings came off an upset win in New Orleans against a great team and moved on to the Divisional Round of the NFC playoffs. Next on the schedule? The San Francisco 49ers and their excellent defense.

Minnesota was once again the underdog. Both the defensive line and the offensive were pushed around, and the Vikings got blown out. Many times over the last few years, something similar happened, and folks just accepted that the Vikings aren’t competing as long as that is the state of the trenches. Good teams build from the inside out. They dominate the lines.

Line Is the Real
Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Well, the Vikings have been pretty good at the line of scrimmage. The offensive line has been graded out by different sources as an elite group in the running and passing game. From left to right, that is by far the best unit the Vikings have had in at least a decade.

Christian Darrisaw and Brian O’Neill continue to dominate the edges. They are Pro Bowl-caliber players, and O’Neill’s return to elite levels from a torn Achilles within nine months has been nothing short of sensational. The veteran has been the bright spot on the line ever since Rick Spielman selected the lineman in 2018. Darrisaw is a true bully, regularly putting great players on the ground with ease, and is starting to get the recognition he deserves.

The tackles were set in the offseason, but the Vikings were heavily criticized when they didn’t add an interior lineman and continued to start Ezra Cleveland, Garrett Bradbury, and Ed Ingram without any competition. Fast forward a couple of months, and the decision-makers were right.

Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Cleveland continues to improve each and every year. He was forced to miss Monday’s contest, but freshly signed guard Dalton Risner stepped in just like Austin Schlottmann did when Bradbury missed some time. Sophomore Ingram has matured over the offseason. Despite some early-season struggles, especially in pass protection, he has been great recently while Bradbury continues to thrive in O’Connell’s scheme.

The San Francisco 49ers, who have arguably the best defensive front in the NFL with Nick Bosa, Arik Armstead, Javon Hargrave, and new addition Randy Gregory, were shut out in the sack department, and Cousins had the necessary time to excel on deep passes all day. Kevin O’Connell handed them a game ball in the locker room after the victory, and the honors were totally deserved.

Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports.

It is good to see the considerable investments made over the years finally paying off. All five linemen were drafted in the first or second round between 2018 and 2022. For the first time in a decade, folks can say this is the offensive line you need if you want to win a Super Bowl.

The next task will be the Green Bay Packers, who also have some talented players up front. A win can elevate the Vikings to a 4-4 record, putting the wild card and the division within reach.

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.