We have seen for years that the Minnesota Vikings are hindered by their offensive line. The team has revamped the line over the past few years and may finally be in good position. They have young talent across the line with starting talent and solid depth. Recent draft picks and free agent signings have put the Vikings in a much better spot in the trenches. Let’s take a closer look at the Minnesota Vikings offensive line.
The Minnesota Vikings Offensive Line Right Now
After what seems like forever, the Vikings finally have a solid young core up front. They selected center Garrett Bradbury with the 18th pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. Bradbury was one of the best interior lineman available in the draft, and he will be expected to make an immediate impact for the Vikings. Pat Elflein, who spent his first two NFL seasons at center, will slide over to either left or right guard. The Vikings selected Brian O’Neill in 2018 to man down the right tackle spot. O’Neill shined as a rookie and did not allow a single snap in nearly 800 snaps. Those three make up the future of the Vikings front line. Elflein (24), Bradbury (23), and O’Neill (23) are all under 25.
The Vikings have a youth and veteran presence. Left tackle Riley Reiff is entering his eighth season in the NFL and third with the Vikings. The Vikings signed Josh Kline this spring to come in and compete at guard. Kline started 46 of the Titans’ 48 games between 2016 and 2018. He will compete with 2019 fourth-round pick Dru Samia for the starting guard spot opposite Elflein. Samia will not have pressure to start right away, but he has more than enough potential to win the job as a rookie.
Regardless of who wins the job, the Vikings will have pretty good depth. Rashod Hill is a swing tackle with some experience in meaningful situations. Brett Jones is a veteran who can fill in when needed. Aviante Collins and Danny Isadora were both project pieces who have developed over the last few years and will have a chance to earn a spot in camp this summer. While the offensive line isn’t perfect, it is in much better shape than in recent years.
Taking a Closer Look
Brian O’Neill was one of the best rookie linemen in the NFL last season. He was deemed a project piece for the future prior to his first NFL season, but he surpassed his expectations by a long shot. O’Neill started 11 games for the Vikings and didn’t allow a single sack in pass protection. That is impressive for a rookie no matter how you want to look at it. Of course, he allowed his fair share of pressures and had struggles that didn’t show up in the stat sheet. But not allowing a single sack against the best talent in the world is promising.
O’Neill’s most intriguing trait is his pure athleticism. He was a tight end when he stepped on campus at Pittsburgh. Despite adding weight and moving to tackle, O’Neill maintained his athleticism and used that to propel his game. He has very good feet and he moves well on the edge. As we see in this clip, O’Neill is quick enough to pass off blocks and beat stunts and switches.
O'Neill's ability to pick up stunts set up two huge plays for the Vikings late in the game–including the 75-yard touchdown pass to Stefon Diggs. pic.twitter.com/RGM7RkmGr3
— Nick Olson (@NickOlsonNFL) September 18, 2018
With another full camp under his belt, expect a big year from Brian O’Neill. He can take a huge step forward and cement himself as the right tackle of the future.
Pat Elflein had a very strong rookie season in Minnesota. He looked to build upon that success in 2018, but injuries slowed him down. Although he played in 14 games, he was not fully healthy throughout the season and the line suffered. The center is the heart and soul of the unit. Without Elflein leading the charge, the Vikings line took a step back from an already bad starting point. This first clip is from Elflein’s rookie year. He is a very good athlete for his size and can get out in space when healthy. Here, Elflein is blocking 15-20 yards down the field on a huge screen pass.
Pat Elflein in the screen game 🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥 pic.twitter.com/xPwgBhHYLS
— Josh Mensch (@JoshMenschNFL) December 18, 2017
After battling injuries in the NFC Championship Game and throughout the offseason, Elflein fell off a bit in his second season. Elflein received ankle surgery at the end of that season and missed a good chunk of the offseason program. He didn’t have the summer to improve his strength and technique, which was evident at times last season. Watch here as he is dominated by Sheldon Rankins right off the snap.
Sheldon Rankins BULLIED Pat Elflein! Sheesh! pic.twitter.com/UbJTQvWgVu
— '04 Rabih Abdullah (@ftbeard_17) October 29, 2018
Moving to guard should be beneficial for Elflein. He played guard at Ohio State before moving to center. His versatility is a huge bonus for the Vikings.
The Minnesota Vikings had to address the offensive line in the NFL Draft. The team is loaded with talent across the board except for up front. A decent line would have made the Vikings a contender last season. Garrett Bradbury was an easy selection for the Vikings. A phenomenal athlete, Bradbury dominated at NC State and took care of some incredible defensive linemen. He also possesses a ton of power at the point of attack. He finishes blocks before moving on to his next victim.
The more I hear about Garrett Bradbury, the more I believe that the #Vikings would be getting one heck of a player in the 1st round if they chose him. League folks keep saying to just watch the Clemson tape. Here's clips from that game, and others: pic.twitter.com/ZOCV9Jwxn5
— Darren Wolfson (@DWolfsonKSTP) April 22, 2019
Bradbury is an excellent run blocker that moves well in space. He hits the second level and demolishes oncoming defenders to create running lanes. As the Vikings focus on a zone rushing attack with Gary Kubiak, Bradbury will be a huge factor. He should start from day one and lead the Vikings to a new offensive look. Dalvin Cook and Kirk Cousins will be very happy. The Vikings will have a very athletic offensive line that should open up the ground game. Bradbury and Elflein should be a handsome duo for quite some time.
Riley Reiff has been an inconsistent option at left tackle for the Vikings. While he is a great veteran presence, his impact on the field has been far from outstanding. In fact, Reiff’s play was so bad last season that the Vikings reportedly considered moving him inside to guard. He has battled injuries and is getting older. Reiff seemed a step slow far too often in 2018, and there is no reason to expect different this season. Khalil Mack absolutely dominated Reiff last season. Mack is one of the best in the game, but Reiff didn’t even look like he belonged.
Khalil Mack is making Riley Reiff look like a high school player pic.twitter.com/2jPNTPXAvx
— Sam Monson (@PFF_Sam) November 19, 2018
Reiff was one of the worst pass blockers in the league at tackle. He allowed the eighth-most pressures in the league. In week three, he allowed 12 pressures by himself. The Vikings will need to get better at left tackle or hope that Reiff can turn things around in 2019.
According to @PFF, Riley Reiff allowed 12 pressures (one sack, two QB hits and nine hurries) on Sunday. Kirk Cousins was pressured on 32 of his 60 dropbacks, the highest total in the league in Week 3.
— Ben Goessling (@GoesslingStrib) September 24, 2018
Former Tennessee Titans lineman Josh Kline is a stop-gap signing for the Vikings. He isn’t great, but he does pose a threat in the run game. As the team develops Dru Samia, they could look to the veteran Kline to fill in this season. Kline is a powerful blocker in the run game, as seen below. He finishes blocks and uses his raw strength to drive defenders into the ground. As the Vikings look to run the ball more, Kline could be a big addition.
— Brandon Thorn (@BrandonThornNFL) September 19, 2018
But if the Vikings remain pass-heavy, Kline could be a liability. Like Reiff, Kline struggles in pass protection. His power in the run game does not translate to pass pro. He needs to be out in space with leverage to generate power. In the passing game, Kline is straight up and easily pushed back. Kline allowed nine pressures in week 12 last season. Hopefully it’s not more of the same for the Minnesota Vikings.
— Luke Braun (@LukeBraunNFL) March 19, 2019
NFL teams desperately need a swing tackle for depth and certain packages. The Vikings hope to have just that in Rashod Hill. He has been the backup tackle for a few years now, playing his fair share of time. His ceiling is high as he is a very good athlete. Hill uses his hands and feet well in pass protection to keep his man in front. His flashes are enough to keep him in Minnesota. If Reiff continues to struggle, Hill could be a realistic option at left tackle moving forward.
Since last season, the potential was always there with Rashod Hill. It's good to see him continuing to build on a promising start to his career. He has a bright future. pic.twitter.com/kkHCh2m9JY
— Jordan Reid (@JReidNFL) January 5, 2018
The mental side of the position is where Hill hurts. Given he only has limited action, he hasn’t quite developed a strong understanding of NFL rushes. Tackle is a very cerebral position, and more reps will help him learn. As for now, it is worth noting the inconsistencies in picking up rushers on stunts. He struggled in week one last season, as seen here.
Rashod Hill had a rough end to the first half pic.twitter.com/DErQveFXH2
— Josh Mensch (@JoshMenschNFL) September 12, 2018
Former Oklahoma guard Dru Samia fell into Minnesota’s lap in round four. He is exactly what the Vikings need on the interior opposite Pat Elflein. He is a powerful athlete with the smarts that are needed up front. Samia is a fluid blocker who passes off blocks when necessary and leaves nothing on the field. He gets to the second level and looks for more defenders. A guard who seals blocks as well as Samia is crucial in the run game. He may not start right away, but he has the potential to be a very good right guard in the NFL.
10 plays that showcase some of what I like most about Dru Samia's game so far: pic.twitter.com/wWxo1iTaEH
— Brandon Thorn (@BrandonThornNFL) February 26, 2019
Rookies always have a tough task of adapting to the NFL. Once Samia makes that adjustment, expect him to join the youth movement up front for the Vikings. A future of Samia, Bradbury, Elflein, and O’Neill seems very promising.
The Minnesota Vikings have been searching for an offensive line for years. It finally seems as though the pieces are in place to be respectable up front. Only time will tell, but the youth in the trenches seems to be a huge step up from recent years.
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