The Vikings Get the Chance to Undercut a Completely Predictable Outcome on TNF

The Vikings-Eagles Pregame Show
Oct 7, 2018; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports.

Don’t look now, but most onlookers believe Minnesota will sink down to 0-2 by the end of Thursday night.

In fact, the vast majority of writers at Vikings Territory are rolling with this precise scenario: Minnesota succumbing to a superior opponent on Thursday Night Football. While Jalen Hurts presents plenty of reasons to worry, the most pressing concern may rest on the opposite side of the ball. The Vikings get the chance to square off with a ferocious Philly front, a collection of talent that’s built to terrorize QBs on a weekly basis.

PurplePTSD: Stafford & Cousins Similarity, Demolished in PHI, NFL Power Rankings
Sep 19, 2022; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts (1) and Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports.

Meanwhile, the Vikings have been sorting through an up-and-down performance from their front five in Week 1. Yes, there was the baffling strip/sack involving Ed Ingram & Kirk Cousins, but that’s simply a single, isolated play (one that all parties are referring to as a random accident).

More concerning is that Garrett Bradbury is out, Christian Darrisaw is less than 100%, and that there are some ongoing concerns about the iOL’s ability to keep Cousins clean.

The Vikings Get a Tough Test on TNF

If Vikings fans were playing bingo during the offseason, then hearing the word “continuity” could have been the free spot in the middle. The term got used so often that it became basically meaningless, the kind of empty jargon that sounds nice but doesn’t make one iota of difference unless the o-line actually plays better on Sunday (and, of course, Thursday).

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.

The initial numbers for the front five (seven?) contain some positives and negatives after a single game:

PlayerPressures AllowedHits AllowedSacks Allowed
Darrisaw, Christian330
Udoh, Oli000
Cleveland, Ezra100
Bradbury, Garrett000
Schlottmann, Austin200
Ingram, Ed411
O’Neill, Brian000

For a little while now, the Vikings’ strength has been at offensive tackle. O’Neill — fresh off a gruelling Achilles injury recovery — put together close to a flawless game. Darrisaw had a few more struggles, but it’s worth noting that he was a bit dinged up and had to miss some snaps. Give the LT a free pass since he has proven to be an excellent player.

Another positive is Cleveland, who will have his hands full tonight. The fourth-year player is working on the final year of his rookie deal, so one has to assume that he’s ultra-motivated to put together a dominant season. Only 25, Cleveland has the potential to partner with Darrisaw for years to come, giving Minnesota a super athletic pair to take care of the left side.

Vikings Had 2 Iron Men on Offense in 2021
Dec 5, 2021; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Minnesota Vikings center Mason Cole (52) and Ezra Cleveland (72) and offensive tackle Brian O’Neill. © David Reginek-USA TODAY Sports.

The chances are high that Philadelphia opts to attack the center and right guard. Schlottmann, a backup, is capable of offering solid play, but few expect him to be an elite option like Jason Kelce on the other side of the field. Meanwhile, Ingram still has plenty of room to grow as his sophomore season gets underway.

Re-watching the clip of the sack he allowed shows that the Bucs defender was able to get Ingram off balance with tremendous power. Ideally, a defensive lineman will carry some electricity in their mitts, the kind of pop that prompts an o-lineman to both get too high and too far back on his heels. Doing so allows the defender to then shake loose from the block, which is precisely what happened on Sunday.

Sep 11, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) throws a touchdown pass while being rushed by Green Bay Packers defensive end Dean Lowry (94) as guard Ed Ingram (67) blocks during the second quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

The Eagles are going to be able to put Jalen Carter, Jordan Davis, Brandon Graham, Josh Sweat, Haason Reddick, and (potentially) Fletcher Cox onto the field at the same time. The Vikings must be able to handle plenty of the matchups in true one-on-one situations. A single weak link in the chain of offensive linemen could lead to an all-too-familiar sight: Kirk Cousins getting walloped.

During the draft, the Vikings didn’t select an offensive lineman. The UDFA group contained Alan Ali and Jacky Chen, but neither remain. Free agency offered a similar approach: retaining internal talent like Bradbury, Schlottmann, and Udoh without any sense of urgency to bring in outside help.

The all-too-predictable outcome for tonight is that the Eagles defense absolutely overwhelms Minnesota’s offensive line, leading to an ineffective aerial attack and lethargic run game. The Vikings get the chance to undercut that possibility, but most in The Gopher State will need to see it to believe it.

Editor’s Note: Information from PFF helped with this piece.

K. Joudry is the Senior Editor for Vikings Territory and PurplePTSD. He has been covering the Vikings full time since the summer of 2021. He can be found on Twitter and as a co-host for Notes from the North, a humble Vikings podcast.