A Vikings Draft Decision Puts Pressure on 1 Player

Bittersweet Kirk
Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

The Vikings addressed some problematic positions in the draft. General manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah brought in some talented players, and college production and scheme fit appeared to be essential for the Vikings’ decision-makers.

First-rounder Jordan Addison will certainly be the main rookie attraction when the season rolls around. Mekhi Blackmon and Jay Ward, the two defensive backs, will have a chance to earn meaningful snaps, just like defensive tackle Jaquelin Roy. They all play positions where the purple team needed some help. However, they didn’t fix one of their weaknesses.

A Vikings Draft Decision Puts Pressure on 1 Player

A Vikings Draft Decision Puts Pressure on 1 Player
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports.

GM Adofo-Mensah brought in six rookies in his second draft class, but none of them is an offensive lineman. That immediately brings up the question, why not? The Vikings’ offensive line has been a disaster for years, quarterback Kirk Cousins just came off a season in which he was the most-hit QB in the league, and that certainly doesn’t have anything to do with his scrambling in the pocket, trying to play hero ball like Joe Burrow. He is getting hit because the players in front of him can’t keep the defenders in front of them.

We all know the two tackles are all-world. Nobody is asking the Vikings to replace Brian O’Neill or Christian Darrisaw. That would be absurd. It’s probably the best tackle duo in the league. Still, Cousins is taking all of those hits despite having elite OTs.

The interior of the offensive line is the problem. It has been for years, even when O’Neill formed a duo with Riley Reiff on the outside. Reiff wasn’t Darrisaw but still a capable player.

All three starters from last year are returning to continue starting for the Vikings. Center Garrett Bradbury was re-signed in free agency. He agreed to a three-year contract after playing well last year. It was clearly his best season to this point.

Ezra Cleveland is viewed as an excellent run blocker who struggles in pass protection. He has a few stinkers every year where he allows pressure after pressure, hit after hit, and he has to get rid of those. His counterpart is Ed Ingram, who was a second-round selection in 2022.

PurplePTSD: Old Viking to Dolphins, Ed Ingram Momentum, MIN-LV Winners and Losers
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Ingram was a gigantic liability early in the season. In the last few games, he improved a little. However, by not drafting or signing anyone to compete with him, the offensive line room is exactly as it was last year, plus a few undrafted free agents. The Vikings guarantee Ingram his starting spot even if he doesn’t improve.

That might not be the wisest decision considering the level of struggle he went through. PFF ranked him as the 57th of 77 eligible offensive guards but 74th in pass protection. Among offensive linemen, his 11 allowed sacks ranked him third, the 19 allowed hits second behind only Ezra Cleveland, and the 63 allowed pressures were the most in the league, five more than the second and eight more than the next guard. To be fair, the 816 pass block reps rank him inside the top 10 in the league, he simply was on the field a lot, he played every snap, and the Vikings passed a lot.

Vikings Activate Rookie
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The organization should have added someone to the mix, even if they believe in Ingram. At the very least, a late-round pick or a cheap veteran signing should have been brought in as insurance.

Ingram is expected to take a positive step. Playing in the NFL isn’t easy as a rookie lineman. Suddenly the opponents are NFL caliber every week as opposed to just once a year when Georgia is the opposing team.

He’ll go into the season as the unquestioned starter. Ingram has the potential to improve, he is a powerful guy, and it shows in the running game. There is a reason why the Vikings invested a second-rounder to get him. The next step is to get better in pass protection, working on lateral quickness and hand usage must be the main priority for him in the upcoming months.

Ingram is now under pressure to perform and to pay back the trust the front office and coaches are giving him. If he flops once again, the Vikings won’t wait another offseason and just replace him at this time next year.

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