Vikings Have an Undercover Roster Battle — and Fans Have Spoken

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."

The Minnesota Vikings formally have a roster battle at offensive guard, and three men will vie for two open spots at training camp and in the preseason.

Vikings Have an Undercover Roster Battle — and Fans Have Spoken

The contenders are Dalton Risner, who started for most of the 2023 season left guard, Ed Ingram, who claimed all of 2023 at right guard, and Blake Brandel, who sounds like a promoted man per the coaching staff’s recent musings.

roster battle
Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports.

And left up to Vikings fans as a prediction, the likeliest outcome is Risner at left guard and Ingram at right guard — or basically the same as last year. The team’s faithful are confident — to the tune of 73% — that Risner will for sure start in September, with the other men a bit more up in the air.

We polled Vikings fans on X, formerly known as Twitter, and this was the outcome:

The poll was unscientific, and 622 folks responded.

Starting OG
Former Denver Broncos offensive guard Dalton Risner on Monday Night Football during his first start with Minnesota. U.S. Bank Stadium, October 23rd, 2023. Risner started for an injured Ezra Cleveland.

Heading into June, many believed any Vikings’ OG battle would involve Risner versus Brandel. While the Risner v. Brandel tryst may still occur, Ingram is in the fold, too. O’Connell said on the Rich Eisen Show about three weeks ago, “We bring back Dalton Risner, who’s gonna compete like crazy at the guard spot with both Ed Ingram and Blake Brandel.”

And there’s not much ambiguity from O’Connell’s mouth on the topic. Any Risner-Brandel discussions must be retired in favor of threeway thinking involving Ingram. The starting left guard, at least in July, is not a binary choice between Risner and Brandel — the matter is effectively a “the best two out of the three will start at right guard and left guard.” One man will be the odd man out and the next man up when the regular season kicks off in September.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports.

Meanwhile, O’Connell’s top lieutenant predicted this. Offensive coordinator Wes Phillips was high on Brandel several weeks ago, and he wasn’t kidding.

“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.”

Fans diagnosed those comments to promote Brandel as a theoretical starter, dampening the likelihood of Risner’s return via free agency. Soon after, however, Risner rejoined the Vikings on a one-year, $2.4 million deal, a salary dwarfed by Brandel’s three-year, $9.5 million contract in March.

Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

It wasn’t until O’Connell tossed Ingram’s name in the discussion that onlookers realized both OG spots were totally up in the air.

And according to the team’s fans, the endgame will likely be Risner at left guard and Ingram on the right side.

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).

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