Week 1 Provides Stern Test for Ed Ingram

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A story that feels as old as time.
Concerns regarding the Minnesota Vikings interior offensive line.

We seem to start every season with the same discussion. Can the Vikings IOL keep the pocket clean for Kirk Cousins?

Week 1 Provides Stern Test for Ed Ingram

This is essential when a team employs an averagely mobile pocket passer like Cousins. The Vikings are going forward with the same three guys who played last season and hope to see improvement across the board. The area where I would hope for the most progress is last season’s rookie right guard. Week 1 provides a stern test for Ed Ingram as he looks for Year 2 progression. How Sunday’s game against the Buccaneers pans out could indicate how this season will go.

The Test

Tampa Bay isn’t the same team that won the Super Bowl three years ago. However, they still have a formidable defensive front, which will put any headway the Vikings interior offensive line has made to the test. Last season, the Buccaneers nose tackle Vita Vea would have wrecked the game. In recent years, players like Vea have proved impossible to handle for the Vikings IOL. Tampa Bay added Calijah Kancey to the mix with their first-round pick in this year’s draft — even more for the Vikings to contend with.

Stern Test for Ed
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Garrett Bradbury and Ezra Cleveland are heading into their fifth and fourth seasons in the league, respectively. While improvement isn’t out of the question for those two, expecting them to become elite pass blockers at this point isn’t realistic. I have more optimism for Ingram taking significant steps forward — doing so in a second season isn’t an unreasonable expectation. Ingram showed improvement as his rookie season progressed, so continued refinement would continue his current curve.

It was a rough start for Ingram in the pro ranks, but he now has a year of experience behind him, coupled with an offseason to get stronger and improve the technical side of his game. Removing errors like stepping on your QB’s foot and causing them to fall over must be eradicated. Consistency is key for Ingram this season. I don’t expect him to become an All-Pro guard suddenly, but it would be an improvement if he can be consistently average or better.

The Whole Offensive Game Plan Needs to be More Consistent

It’s strange to say about an offense that scored 424 points last season — the seventh-most across the league — however the Vikings offense needs to be more consistent this year. At times, Minnesota blew teams away, only to be unable to move the ball anywhere at others — often in the same game against the same opposition. 

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In the search for that consistency, the Vikings have done a few things in the offseason. It might be a surprise that it hasn’t involved the IOL, other than converting Blake Brandel from tackle to guard to be the only backup on the roster. There have been moves that should help, which include extending FB C.J. Ham and signing TE Josh Oliver. Those moves suggested the Vikings wanted to emphasize running the ball, something Kevin O’Connell has openly expressed. 

The Vikings run blocking wasn’t good last year, which was strange as that is where this group of players would be expected to excel. Running the ball as a more prominent part of the game plan, with more help from Ham and Oliver, can lead to more consistency in that area of the offense. Oliver also allows the Vikings to run more 12 personnel and lend a hand with pass-blocking.

from Ed Ingram
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The Vikings offense was productive last season. They just need to find consistency. The primary way to do that is to improve the IOL, with the main focus on Ingram. Can he produce? The Buccaneers provide a stern test and will give an early indicator.