OT Rankings a Mixed Bag for 2 Vikings Stars

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Everyone who examines Minnesota’s roster can see some strengths and weaknesses. On defense, the three safeties are certainly the best element, while the quality of the defensive line can be questioned. Offensively, the Vikings employ an outstanding receiver duo highlighted by Justin Jefferson, but the interior of the offensive line is underwhelming.

OT Rankings a Mixed Bag for 2 Vikings Stars

Tackle Rankings Are a Mixed Bag for 2 Vikings Stars
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That interior offensive line has been a struggle for years despite Rick Spielman’s continued investments to improve the issues by drafting Garrett Bradbury in the first round and Ezra Cleveland in the second. Ed Ingram followed in the second round in Kwesi Adofo-Mensah’s first draft.

The good news, however, is that an outstanding offensive tackle duo assists the shaky guards. Brian O’Neill, who joined Skol Nation in 2018, and Christian Darrisaw, a 2021 draft choice, have been excellent for years. O’Neill went to the Pro Bowl in 2021, and Darrisaw has been snubbed twice.

They provided Kirk Cousins with solid protection on the outside and helped in the running game by making it harder for pass-rushers to set the edges. The duo has been one of the best, if not the best, offensive tackle tandems in the entire league.

Christian Darrisaw
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In the person of Zoltán Buday, Pro Football Focus ranked the league’s top 32 tackles, and one can be happy about his slot, the other can’t. Darrisaw was placed fourth behind Trent Williams, Tristan Wirfs, and Penei Sewell, an exceptional trio. O’Neill, meanwhile, appeared much lower on the list than expected, as he was spotted 23rd.

The primary knock on Darrisaw has been his injuries, and Buday mentioned that.

Darrisaw enjoyed an elite 2022 season in which he earned a 90.4 overall grade, which ranked second at the position. However, injuries slowed him down and forced him to miss time in 2023. As a result, his overall grade declined to 82.4, though his 85.3 pass-blocking grade was still good for third.

Zoltán Buday, Pro Football Focus

The 2021 first-rounder has exceeded expectations since he stepped onto the field. He combines power and quickness like few others and is a rare highlight machine on the edges of offensive lines. Throwing people north of 250 lbs around is a staple of his tape.

Christian Darrisaw's Return Is a Bigger Deal Than You Think
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A pair of concussions limited him to 14 of 17 games in 2022, and he missed two contests because of an ankle injury in 2023. That concern is fair, although he has been elite in the other 29 games.

The Vikings have recently picked up his fifth-year option, securing his rights for at least two more seasons. Unless his injuries remain a major problem, there’s no reason to believe he won’t sign a massive long-term contract next offseason. He is eligible to extend his contract in the current offseason, but similarly to Jefferson, those deals usually get done after the fourth campaign.

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O’Neill signed his second contract in 2021. He has been Cousins’s right tackle for the entirety of his tenure in Minnesota, outside of a couple of contests before claiming a starting role in his debut season and a few games after partially tearing his Achilles tendon in 2022. According to Buday, the staple had a down year in 2023:

O’Neill was slowed down by injuries in 2023 and was not able to replicate his amazing 2022 season, but he still put together a solid campaign. He finished top-25 in both pass-blocking and run-blocking grades and was just one of 15 players at the position to earn 70.0-plus grades in both facets of the game.

Zoltán Buday, Pro Football Focus

O’Neill missed three games late in the season because of an ankle injury. He later clarified that he had played through a small fracture in his foot before sitting out three of the final four games, which shows his toughness. He also returned from his Achilles injury suffered late in the 2022 season in time to start in Week 1 without any problems.

In recent memory, the former second-rounder has perhaps been the most reliable player on Minnesota’s roster, performing well every week, year after year. Before Darrisaw joined him, he was the clear star of Minnesota’s offensive line.

to Spell Absolute Doom
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O’Neill is under contract for three more seasons with extensive cap hits. His contract could be restructured via extension next offseason. If the Vikings wanted to move on from him, they could do so in 2025, but he is still only 28 years old and is a cornerstone of the organization and a team captain.

Everyone views Minnesota as a great landing spot for a rookie quarterback, and the two tackles are a big reason. Outstanding protection on the outside will help J.J. McCarthy’s development.

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