Vikings OC Pounds the Table for Unsung Starter

Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Left guard, a position formerly held down by Dalton Risner, remains a question mark on the Minnesota Vikings roster, at least according to fans.

Vikings OC Pounds the Table for Unsung Starter

But don’t tell that to Wes Phillips, the club’s offensive coordinator.

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Minnesota has not re-signed Risner — and probably would have by now if he was on tap as the franchise’s 2024 solution at left guard. So, all signs point to Blake Brandel as a starter this season, and Phillips is just fine with it.

“I’m really excited about Blake. I feel like he gets bigger every time I see him. He’s just a massive man on the inside. But he’s in great shape, he’s always been very coachable,” Phillps told reporters last week at organized team activities (OTAs). “You talk about technique, fundamentals, footwork, hand placement, all the things that are critical for the O-line — one false step for an O-lineman could be a catastrophe — it’s been very encouraging so far with him stepping into that starting spot on the left.”

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Until recently, most fans considered Brandel a reservist commodity, but after signing a three-year, $9.5 million contract, he could be on deck as Risner’s replacement and on his way to a starter’s job. Brandel produced a 55.3 Pro Football Focus grade last year on 163 offensive snaps after the Vikings coaching staff moved him from tackle to guard. Truth be told, that score isn’t very promising, so fans will hope for improvement if Brandel is indeed tapped for a starter’s assignment. Just when the club had the guard spot fixed — it caused heartburn for years — some are paranoid that Minnesota could slide back to half-measured solutions.

Phillips continued, “I think it’ll only grow, the more experience, the more reps he gets. He’s been a guy that, any time he’s been put in a game at several positions, has come through for us. We haven’t forgotten that. I think he’s earned this opportunity.”

blake brandel
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And that sure sounds like a man who has won the coaching staff’s heart. The only problem, so to speak, is that Risner won fans’ hearts in 2023. Brandel has big shoes to fill.

Under Kevin O’Connell, this is Minnesota’s offensive line progression per leaguewide PFF ranking since 2020:

  • 2020: 26th
  • 2021: 23rd
  • 2022: 13th
  • 2023: 12th

Ergo, folks simply must trust O’Connell and Phillips in that designating Brandel as a starter is wise.

Dalton Risner
Minnesota Vikings guard Dalton 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.”

Not for nothing, if the initial Brandel experiment bends pear-shaped this summer, Risner might even still be available on the open market.

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