The Vikings Apparently Have a Great Offensive Line

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The 2023 Minnesota Vikings are a strange football team. They were competitive in all three contests but couldn’t come away with a single victory, falling to 0-3 in the standings. There are many reasons for the disappointing start. The offense is too inconsistent and prone to turning the ball over, and the defense is the team’s weak spot. Although Brian Flores is trying to compensate for the lack of talent, he can do only so much.

The Vikings Apparently Have a Great Offensive Line

The Vikings Apparently Have a Great Offensive Line
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But the strangest development of the season is not the record or the regression of luck. It is the offensive line. Heavily criticized for a long time, the offensive line cost the Vikings many games in the past, but the group is holding up pretty well in 2023.

It is not an easy thing to track like other positions. If a quarterback has good numbers, he is usually playing well. The same can be said about running backs and receivers. But there are not many counting statistics for the offensive line besides pressure statistics, which can sometimes be a little misleading.

However, some outlets grade the offensive line and evaluate their pass-blocking prowess. And guess what? The Vikings are elite at blocking in the passing game. Ben Baldwin uses three sources to form offensive line rankings, and the Vikings come in fourth.

The Vikings rank highly in PFF grade, ESPN’s pass block win rate, and SIS ranks them as an average group.

Different sites have different definitions of pressures, hurries, and the timeframe the QB must be pressured to count as a loss for the offensive line. Generally speaking, if a passer gets hit seven seconds after the snap, it is not the offensive line’s fault.

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The good news is that having more sources is usually a better strategy and improves the numbers as opposed to having only one.

Still, it doesn’t feel like those are correct statistics. Kirk Cousins has been under pressure a lot, and something seems off. Well, let’s pretend that the offensive line is indeed good and the efficiency statistics are correct. Why is he the most-hit QB in the league?

One explanation could be that he holds the ball too long, and many hits occur after the line has done its job. They can’t form a pocket forever, and the ball has to come out quicker.

The interesting thing is that there can also be many reasons for that. For one, the obvious reason, Cousins might hold the ball longer than needed because of slow reads and indecisiveness. He normally makes the correct read and is quick at making those decisions, but there are some reps where the ball must come out quicker.

But it might not be Cousins’ fault at all. Kevin O’Connell is good at drawing up long-developing plays. There is a reason why Justin Jefferson and Jordan Addison have been effective on deep routes. Cousins has to wait for them to be open.

NFL: Los Angeles Chargers at Minnesota Vikings
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Jefferson going up against double teams and Addison having the expected struggles at the line of scrimmage also leads to the receivers needing more time to get open.

At the end of the day, all of the above could be better to take advantage of the solid offensive line play. Cousins needs to get the ball out quicker by making faster decisions, O’Connell needs to draw up more quick passes, and the receivers must do a better job at winning their routes early in the play.

Still, the only reason why the Vikes aren’t considered an elite offense is turnovers. The offense ranks third in yards and second in yards per play. In turnover excluded EPA/play, O’Connell’s unit ranks fifth.

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Another notable aspect is that the line has been graded at a similar rate in run blocking. The group couldn’t move the ball in the first two weeks of the season against strong defensive lines but had a pretty good rushing day in Week 3. Ed Ingram, the oft-criticized guard, is excelling at blocking the run.

Free agent addition Dalton Risner might still end up playing sooner rather than later and replace Ed Ingram, a move fans have been waiting for. Competition and perhaps an upgrade up front is a positive. If the decent offensive line play continues and the players get even better as the season progresses, the line might become a surprising strength in Minnesota.

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