One Vikings Unit Has Truly Turned the Corner

Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

Remember the days — there were several such days — of thinking about the Minnesota Vikings’ offensive line … and cringing?

One Vikings Unit Has Truly Turned the Corner

That naughty era of Vikings history is kaput, evidenced by preseason OL rankings from various sources. Heading into 2024, and even dating back to the start of 2022, Minnesota’s offensive trenches have turned the corner, so much so that some outlets consider the group a Top 10 fivesome.

Christian Darrisaw
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A couple of months ago, Pro Football Network released 2024 offensive line rankings for all NFL teams, and Minnesota checked in at No. 9. This is the projected lineup:

  • Christian Darrisaw (LT)
  • Blake Brandel or Dalton Risner (LG)
  • Garrett Bradbury (C)
  • Ed Ingram (RG)
  • Brian O’Neill (RT)

And that group was apparently good enough for the Top 10. “Darrisaw continued his ascension last season, forming an outstanding tackle duo with O’Neill. Ingram showed development after a disastrous rookie campaign, and the Minnesota Vikings finished third in pass-block win rate,” PFN’s Dallas Robinson explained. “Bradbury remains a concern, while Brendel is something of an unknown at left guard. Minnesota could yet re-sign Dalton Risner or draft a prospect to compete with Brandel.

Have Skeleton Crew
Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

Then, last week, Pro Football Focus dropped a similar batch of rankings, with Minnesota checking in at No. 13.

“Although left tackle Christian Darrisaw was not able to replicate his breakout 2022 campaign, he still finished 2023 as the third-highest-graded offensive tackle in pass protection despite battling injuries,” PFF’s Zoltan Buday wrote. “While the interior trio of Dalton Risner, Garrett Bradbury and Ed Ingram is average at best, the offensive tackle duo of Darrisaw and Brian O’Neill makes the Vikings’ line an above-average unit.”

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports.

During the Mike Zimmer era — 2014 to 2021 — the purple team typically started the season around 25th-27th on such OL lists and then never showed much in the regular season to prove folks wrong. Kevin O’Connell’s takeover of the head coaching job has flipped the script.

Of course, it’s not entirely smooth sailing or elite in the trenches. Minnesota re-signed Dalton Risner in May, a move universally praised by Vikings fans, but no one knows for sure where he’ll fit into 2024 OL plans. In fact, a threeway training camp battle is on the way for two guard spots between Risner, Brandel, and Ingram.

Dalton Risner
Minnesota guard D. Risner addressed the media from the TCO Performance Center. Dalton Risner: “We All Know We Have A Great Culture But We Came Up Short This Season.”

A good problem to have, the contrast between now and 2020, for example, is stark. At the moment, Minnesota might have “too many” playable guards, whereas, four years ago, the options were Dakota Dozier and Dru Samia, men who emphatically didn’t pan out.

Thanks to cornerstone tackles in Darrisaw and O’Neill, the hard part is figured out — and probably why Minnesota ranks in the Top 9 to 13 via OL rankings entering this season.

Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sal Spice. His Vikings obsession dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ Basset Hounds, and The Doors (the band).

All statistics provided by Pro Football Reference / Stathead; all contractual information provided by