Offensive Lineman Tabbed as Vikings Minicamp Standout

blake brandel
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The Minnesota Vikings have had a carousel at the offensive guard spots for years. Most fans can remember some infamous names like Dakota Dozier and Dru Samia. Still, some others, like Tom Compton and Josh Kline, have already been forgotten because of the high number of one-year solutions. Rick Spielman and Kwesi Adofo-Mensah have tried to fix the problem for almost a decade.

Offensive Lineman Tabbed as Vikings Minicamp Standout

Offensive Lineman Tabbed as Vikings Minicamp Standout
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Spielman added Ezra Cleveland in 2020. The second-rounder became a starter in his rookie season and remained in the top five until the Vikings traded him at last year’s trade deadline to the Jacksonville Jaguars to make room for Dalton Risner. Veteran Risner returned to Minnesota after a second consecutive underwhelming market in free agency, while third-year player Ed Ingram developed into a starting-caliber guard on the right side of the line.

Either Ingram or Risner could lose their jobs to former sixth-round choice Blake Brandel. The Vikings re-signed him to high-end backup or low-end starter money, and speculation about him taking over a starting gig has been ongoing ever since. The per-year salary of his three-year $9.5 million contract tops that of Risner (one-year, $2,410,000).

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Now, Kevin Seifert from ESPN picked him as the franchise’s standout in the offseason program:

You wouldn’t expect a former backup offensive lineman to be the talk of Vikings practices, and it’s not as if Brandel was on the tip of the tongue of every coach and player this spring. But it was exceptionally notable to watch how events played out at the left guard spot. After four years as a backup guard and tackle, and increasingly unsolicited raves from coaches,

Brandel opened the spring as the first-team left guard. He remained there even after the Vikings re-signed 2023 starter Dalton Risner. Coach Kevin O’Connell indicated that Risner will compete with both Brandel and right guard Ed Ingram, a strong sign the Vikings will give Brandel every opportunity to elevate into a starting role.

Kevin Seifert, ESPN

The fact that players who know the system remain in the starting lineup over newcomers is normal. However, the situation in Minnesota is different, as both Risner and Brandel have knowledge of the scheme and are familiar with their teammates.

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Wes Phillips, offensive coordinator in his third season with the team, praised Brandel: “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 at May’s organized team activities (OTAs) about Brandel. “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.”

In today’s NFL, fans want their rookies to get high snap numbers, and if they aren’t starters by their second season, their careers are practically over. Brandel is a fascinating case as a late-bloomer who didn’t see much playing time in the early stages of his journey in the NFL, showing that patience is key.

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Coming out of Oregon State, Brandel was drafted with the 203rd pick in 2020. He didn’t survive the roster cuts in September but showed enough promise to be stashed on the practice squad for his entire rookie season. Once again, starting the 2021 campaign on the practice squad, the team promoted him to the 53-man roster a few games into the season. He appeared in 13 contests, primarily as a sixth offensive lineman in heavy run packages.

In 2022, Brandel was Christian Darrisaw’s top backup and logged three starts because of the starter’s concussion problems. A year later, in 2023, Brandel started two games after the team had moved him to backup guard, replacing Ingram at right guard.

Despite both Ingram and Risner staying ahead of Brandel on last year’s depth chart, he might usurp one of them and end up protecting between center Garrett Bradbury and an offensive tackle.

Brandel played 503 offensive snaps through four seasons and 39 contests with the Vikings.

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 prefers Classic rock over other genres. Follow him on Twitter if you like the Vikings: @JanikEckardt