Vikings Have an Unforeseen Roster Battle

blake brandel
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The Minnesota Vikings will conduct a handful of roster battles this summer, including showdowns to determine the WR3, defensive tackle next to Harrison Phillips, starting cornerbacks, and kicker.

Vikings Have an Unforeseen Roster Battle

But according to head coach Kevin O’Connell, a fresh roster battle can be tossed into the mix, one not necessarily foreseen when the offseason began.

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

That’s offensive guard, on the whole, and Ed Ingram is apparently in a spot to fight for his right guard gig. Before this week, many believed any Vikings’ OG battle would involve Dalton Risner versus Blake Brandel. While the Risner v. Brandel tryst may still occur, Ingram is in the fold, too.

O’Connell said on the Rich Eisen Show this week, “We bring back Dalton Risner, who’s gonna compete like crazy at the guard spot with both Ed Ingram and Blake Brandel.”

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And there’s not much ambiguity from O’Connell’s lips on the topic. Any Risner-Brandel discussions must be retired in favor of threeway thinking involving Ingram. The starting left guard, at least in June, 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.

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

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports.

“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 interpreted 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.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports.

When the dust settles on the topic, the roster battle may evolve into Ingram v. Brandel at right guard. Risner almost never plays right guard, so he could be the starter on the left side, with Ingram and Brandel duking it out at RG.

It’s a good problem to have — too many startable guards. Not long ago, Minnesota couldn’t find any.

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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