Kevin O’Connell Reiterates Familiar Slogan about OL

Minnesota Vikings head coach Kevin O'Connell at U.S. Bank Stadium after Minnesota lost to the New York Giants in the Wildcard Round of the postseason, 31-24.

The Minnesota Vikings have a good problem at a spot that generally causes immense heartburn.

Through four weeks, Kevin O’Connell has several offensive line options and only five starting slots. Typically in a Vikings season amid the last half-decade, Minnesota’s starters have floundered, and no one is available on the depth chart for repair.

Kevin O’Connell Reiterates Familiar Slogan about OL

These were the Vikings opening day OL starters:

  • LT: Christian Darrisaw
  • LG: Ezra Cleveland
  • C: Garrett Bradbury
  • RG: Ed Ingram
  • RT: Brian O’Neill
Reiterates Familiar Slogan
Aug 26, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell looks on before a game against the Arizona Cardinals at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports.

And this was the group on the field last weekend as Bradbury continued to recover from a back injury:

  • LT: Christian Darrisaw
  • LG: Ezra Cleveland
  • C: Austin Schlottmann
  • RG: Ed Ingram
  • RT: Brian O’Neill

Then, these men could reasonably play starters’ roles if needed:

  • Dalton Risner (OG)
  • Chris Reed (OG, NFI List)
  • Blake Brandel (OG-OT)

Reed is eligible to return from the non-football-injury list, but it is unclear when that will occur. Meanwhile, Schottmann, at center, has filled in admirably for Bradbury and, in fact, has proved to be a better pass-blocker than Bradbury amid the last few seasons.

Sep 14, 2023; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Minnesota Vikings center Austin Schlottmann (65) and guard Ezra Cleveland (72) against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports.

Decision, decisions.

And on Wednesday, four days before the Vikings host the world champion Kansas City Chiefs, O’Connell said about his OL group, “That group there, with Dalton and Blake, have all been getting reps. I thought Austin Schlottmann played one of the best games he’s had. We’ll continue to get those guys reps, and we’re going to play the best five.”

Dec 8, 2019; Houston, TX, USA; Denver Broncos offensive guard Dalton Risner (66) warms up before a game against the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports.

Fans hang on the O’Connell comments, mainly to determine if or when Risner will hit the field. The Vikings signed Risner over two weeks ago on a one-year deal expandable to $4 million, generally a starter’s paycheck. Then, almost weekly, RG Ed Ingram produces a flummoxing play, leading fans to chant for Risner, to no avail thus far.

The Vikings offensive line ranks 22nd in the NFL after four weeks, according to Pro Football Focus, although various advanced metrics claim the unit is better than that. Regardless, Minnesota leads the NFL in QB hits, in a bad way, and some degree of tweaking is probably in order.

Aug 3, 2023; Eagan, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell talks to players during training camp at TCO Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports.

The takeaway? O’Connell had a chance to pound home continuity as his preferred strategy, whether that’s leaving Ingram or Schlottmann in the starting lineup. Instead, he touted the talents of Risner and Brandel, perhaps tipping his man that either man could see the field.

Overall, it’s a toss-up. You could flip on your television Sunday and see Risner at offensive guard — or he may continue to live on the bench. O’Connell claims he’ll play the best fivesome, regardless of continuity or draft stock.

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).

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