Vikings OL Emphasis Helps New Quarterback Succeed

Did the Vikings Hire
Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

Not long ago, the Minnesota Vikings had an offensive line rivaling Swiss cheese. They could not keep anyone from beating up their quarterback, and after seeing Matt Kalil flop, the bookend on the blind side was not good. Fast forward to now, and Minnesota has created a strong blueprint for its succession plan under center.

Vikings OL Emphasis Helps New Quarterback Succeed

Coming into the 2023 season, there are very few teams in the NFL with a better situation on the offensive line than what the Vikings have in front of them. Christian Darrisaw is a legit, Pro Bowl-quality left tackle. He’ will be extended on a big contract eventually, and he has been nothing short of a slam dunk draft pick. Ezra Cleveland has morphed into a nice player alongside Darrisaw, and Garrett Bradbury took his game to a necessary new level last year.

Vikings OL Emphasis
Ezra Cleveland and Christian Darrisaw

The Vikings have needed someone in the middle to step up for some time, and Bradbury turning his game around was exceptional. Coming into the 2022 season, it was all but certain he would be playing elsewhere in 2023. Minnesota declined his fifth-year option and was set for him to hit free agency. That turned on its head when he played exceptionally last year, and he was certainly a prioritized free agent to bring back this winter.

Last year, the Vikings took another LSU player when they grabbed Ed Ingram at the right guard spot. He immediately started, and while there were understandable growing pains, he could be expected to take a step forward in year two. Brian O’Neill continues to be his Pro-Bowl self on the right side, and he locks down a group that has been heralded nationally this offseason.

Unsung Young Viking
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While Kirk Cousins is currently cemented as the Vikings quarterback, where the club goes from here remains to be seen. General manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah hasn’t made a long-term commitment to the veteran, and Kevin O’Connell has another quarterback to develop in Jaren Hall. The BYU product comes highly decorated from the college ranks but will need significant time learning before he’s ready to at the next level.

A player like Hall benefits substantially by joining a roster like the Vikings, though. Minnesota has plenty of offensive weapons in both Justin Jefferson and T.J. Hockenson, but the new signal caller will also have substantial protection for themselves upfront. Cousins has taken his fair share of hits and sacks over the years, but some of that is due to his own statuesque type of play under center. A better athlete, and maybe even a more raw talent willing to take some risks, could benefit from the talented group up front.

Rookie minicamp highlights from Minnesota Vikings quarterback Jaren Hall’s firHall’sctice as a Viking after being selected in the 2023 NFL Draft. Minnesota found Hall in Round 5 of the event, and he could serve as QB3 in 2023.

We will need to take a wait-and-see approach when it comes to finding out what the Vikings succession plan is at quarterback. Maybe the team isn’t convinced Hall can take over next year, and if they don’t land a high enough to take their guy, extending Cousins again may have to happen. A veteran free agent could also be an option, but that landscape has yet to take shape. No matter what, any solid quarterback should feel excited about playing behind this offensive line, and that’s not something the organization has been able to say for quite some time.

Give credit to the Vikings coaching staff for turning around Bradbury last season and continuing to develop what is a very young and talented group. Protecting your assets up front is necessary in this league, and it’s nice to see Minnesota executing on that front.

Ted Schwerzler is a blogger from the Twin Cities that is focused on all things Minnesota Twins and Minnesota Vikings. He’s active on Twitter and writes weekly for Twins Daily. As a former college athlete and avid sports fan, covering our pro teams with a passion has always seemed like such a natural outlet.