Look at That — OL Rankings Rather Kind to Vikings.

Dec 26, 2021; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings offensive tackle Brian O'Neill (75) and Los Angeles Rams outside linebacker Von Miller (40) in action at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

The following can almost be considered a ‘where were you when’ moment for Minnesota Vikings fans.

For years, arguably since the Brett Favre era, the Vikings have experienced suspect or poor offensive line performance, especially along the line’s interior.

Look at That — OL Rankings Rather Kind to Vikings.

But the tide may be turning, at least in the court of public opinion.

OL Ranking for 2023
Sep 19, 2022; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Minnesota Vikings offensive tackle Christian Darrisaw (71) prepares to block against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports.

To the ‘eye test,’ Minnesota’s offensive line improved last year, the first season under offense-first head coach Kevin O’Connell. The offensive trenches no longer felt terrible and were therefore classified as decent by most Vikings fans and NFL grading metrics. According to Pro Football Focus, the Vikings finished 2022 with the 13th-best OL output.

Well, fast forward to the brink of the 2023 season, and Minnesota is ranked at No. 8, per The 33rd Team’s Ross Tucker. He published OL rankings with the regular season five weeks away, and O’Connell’s line is evidently a Top 8 group.

Look at That
Oct 10, 2021; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings offensive tackle Brian O’Neill (75) warms up before the game against the Detroit Lions at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Blewett-USA TODAY Sports.

The Vikings didn’t live in Tucker’s ‘elite’ tier, but no one expected those kudos in the first place. Instead, Minnesota was tabbed for an ‘above average’ class, and Tucker explained, “The Minnesota Vikings’ ascension in my rankings is largely based on the play of their offensive tackles. Left tackle Christian Darrisaw and right tackle Brian O’Neill are studs who lift the performance of an interior trio that is just OK.”

The club will also showcase offensive line continuity for the first time in ages, from left to right, presumably starting Christian Darrisaw (LT), Ezra Cleveland (LG), Garrett Bradbury (C), Ed Ingram (RG), and Brian O’Neill (RT).

Labeled Deep
Jan 15, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings center Garrett Bradbury (56) prepares to snap the ball to quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) during the first quarter of a wild card game at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

And the Vikings are banking on that familiarity translating to production. Bradbury was a free agent this offseason and could’ve somewhat easily ventured elsewhere. Minnesota, though, opted for constancy rather than newcomers.

On the other hand, the Vikings are reportedly meeting with free-agent guard Dalton Risner this week, and a deal with that former Denver Bronco could materialize any minute. It is unclear if Risner would take over for Cleveland or Ingram or create OG depth. We shall see.

PurplePTSD: Old Viking to Dolphins, Ed Ingram Momentum, MIN-LV Winners and Losers
Aug 14, 2022; Paradise, Nevada, USA; Minnesota Vikings guard Ed Ingram (67) defends against Las Vegas Raiders defensive tackle Vernon Butler (94) in the first half at Allegiant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports.

The broader takeaway is the changing of the guard in terms of the Vikings OL perception. From 2018 to 2021, Minnesota’s offensive line was a source of frustration, a punchline of jokes. The tide is turning. Folks didn’t rank the unit at No. 8 — or anywhere close to it — from 2018 to 2021.

While the group still has to show up early in the season and prove the ranking legitimate, normally fans are on pins and needles during the summer, wondering if the OL fivesome is any good at all.

This is the perk of a former quarterback in charge of the franchise. He understands the necessity and vitality of a competent offensive line.

The Philadelphia Eagles (No. 1), Detroit Lions (No. 2), and Cleveland Browns (No. 3) led the way via Tucker’s OL rankings. The Los Angeles Rams (No. 30), Jacksonville Jaguars (No. 31), and Tennessee Titans (No. 32) lived in the cellar.

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 Sal Spice. His Vikings obsession dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ Basset Hounds, and The Doors (the band).

All statistics provided by Pro Football Reference / Stathead; all contractual information provided by OverTheCap.com.