Vikings Starting Lineman Finally Logs Full Practice Leading up to Clash with Giants

OL Continuity Will
Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports.

The Vikings have been one of the healthiest teams of the season. Only a few starters ever missed a game.

In recent weeks, however, the offensive line was depleted. Multiple starters missed time. Right tackle Brian O’Neill partially tore his Achilles tendon in Green Bay while chasing a ball carrier after an interception.

Teammate Austin Schlottmann fractured his fibula just a few minutes earlier on a goalline carry from Dalvin Cook. The center was replaced by Chris Reed, who struggled in his first game, especially with snap counts. The veteran guard had never played that position before in his NFL career. One week after his struggles, Reed played much better in the season finale in Chicago.

Vikings Starting Lineman Finally Logs Full Practice Leading up to Clash with Giants

2019 draft pick Oli Udoh replaced O’Neill in his natural position at right tackle after playing in 2021 as the right guard. He heavily struggled inside but played totally fine as an offensive tackle. Udoh only allowed two quarterback pressures in his two games.

Vikings Starting Lineman
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On Thursday, another injured lineman took a big step toward returning to the field. Starting center Garrett Bradbury returned and logged a full practice for the first time in more than a month.

Bradbury is playing at a much higher level than in the past. Most fans wanted the Vikings to upgrade on the center spot, but they stuck with Bradbury, and they have been right. The center is showing improved pass protection in addition to his usual good run blocking.

Bradbury would be a much-needed improvement at center before the game against the Giants with defensive tackles Dexter Lawrence and Leonard Williams. The two are arguably the two best defenders of the opposing team, and they line up right across from the Vikings’ weakness, the interior offensive line.

Vikings Depth Chart -- Week 16 vs. Giants
Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen (19) and center Garrett Bradbury. © Danielle Parhizkaran/, North Jersey Record via Imagn Content Services, LLC.

The Vikings will be cautious with Bradbury, and there’s a chance that his back will tighten up again, so the next couple of days will be deciding ones on his status. However, it’s encouraging to see him go through a full practice after missing five consecutive games. He will be a free agent after the season, so every game could be his last one for the purple team.

Another offensive lineman could also be back. Backup offensive tackle Blake Brandel missed the last four games with a torn MCL. He was designated to return to practice, and the Vikings have a 21-day window to activate him to the roster. He could potentially start over Oli Udoh, as he was the player who replaced left tackle Christian Darrisaw during his absence. Brandel is ready if needed.

A decision for Udoh or Brandel has not been made so far. Offensive coordinator Wes Phillips was asked if Udoh would definitely start or if Brandel is an option. His answer: “I wouldn’t say definitely.” However, he added that the coaches have been pleased with Udoh.

Vikings Lineman Avoids
Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports.

There are no teams with bad defensive lines in the postseason. For that reason, the Vikings coaching staff and the players must find the right starting combination in the next few days.

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